“Fuck Iraq,” says a soldier in Paul Auster’s new novel, Man in the Dark. “This is America, and America is fighting America.” This civil war the man describes takes place solely in the head of August Brill, a retired book critic, and the reasons for the bloodshed read like a DNC revenge fantasy scripted by Michael Bay: Americans responded to the 2000 election not with grudging acceptance but open revolt, as various states secede and attempt to stave off attacks from belligerent “Federals.” Brill’s dream, though, matters less to Auster than Brill’s reasons for dreaming it, and while Man in the Dark has its share of noirish, postapocalyptic war scenes, the novel’s center is Brill’s wide-awake concern for his granddaughter, Katya, whose boyfriend recently died from violent and (until the very end) undisclosed causes. No writer is working harder than Auster to give America an existential literature to call its own, and Brill has a ruminative and slightly despairing mood that recalls Camus’ antiheros. Yet Man in the Dark isn’t a headlong leap into emptiness: Instead of revisiting the woolly abstractions of his previous novel, last year’s Travels in the Scriptorium, Auster treats the theme of isolation straightforwardly, studying the emotional costs of war through Brill’s own vivid memories and his family’s own recent heartbreak. In the process, he arrives at the provocative notion that war stories and love stories aren’t as different as we might like to think. AUSTER DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HIS WORK AT 7 P.M. AT POLITICS AND PROSE, 5015 CONNECTICUT AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 364-1919.