Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss is one of the best young American writers. She has been featured in the New Yorker and other prestigious literary magazines, and she’s also Jonathan Safran Foer’s wife, the new Wunderkind of American Literature.

The History of Love is her second novel, and it follows the life of Leo Gursky, an elderly man who lives all alone – a very pathetic and senseless life. Basically he just wants to die. The beauty in all this lies in the fact that Gursky once wrote a novel for the woman he loved. The History of Love. So, yes, this is meta-fiction, and it’s one of the very best novels of this type I’ve encountered.

There are numerous passages from the novel itself, which got lost when the Nazis came to their village in Poland. The fact that the manuscript mysteriously survived and found its way to Latin America, is worth discovering on yourself. Alma, Leo’s lover, leaves for America, and when he arrives there also, he finds out that she’s pregnant with his child. And also married to another man.

So far, there’s nothing extraordinary about this story. As a story, because the writing is superb and so I’m just judging this book for the story it contains, which is even more wonderful. The idea is that Leo never loved anyone after Alma, never even tried. He lives his quiet existence, having a single friend, Bruno. Then there’s his son, a very successful writer, whom he hasn’t spoken once.

This is the first story-line. Then we have another story-line which follows Alma Singer, a 14 year old girl, incredibly bright, who wants to help her mother fall in love. After Alma’s father died, of course. Well, these two story lines have a lot in common, and at one point Alma and Leo do meet. The story is fantastic, sad, and it rings true in every little aspect and detail; there’s even a fantastic twist near the end, like the ones that don’t come out of the blue for the sake of adding nuance to a story. No, it makes you remember and realize that it is indeed so, it makes you recall or those little odd details that you didn’t bother to analyze properly, and then, finally say, “Yes, this might be real. This could have happened sometime, somewhere.”

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