San Francisco Public Library

May's Pick 2006

Image representing cover The History of Love
The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss

At the heart of The History of Love is another book, also entitled The History of Love, written in Poland by young Leo Gursky for his beloved, Alma, the central figure in his book. When WWII breaks out, Alma leaves for New York, escaping the impending Holocaust, while Leo entrusts his manuscript to a friend and survives by hiding in forests and cellars.

Sixty years later in New York, elderly Leo Gursky’s greatest fear is of dying unnoticed, a fate he tries to fend off through such desperate acts as scattering coins in public and working as a nude model. His story combines pathos and humor, poetic flights and down-to-earth bodily concerns, and becomes interwoven with that of 14-year-ol Alma Singer, anxious about her Messiah-obsessed younger brother and her lonely, recently-widowed mother. Alma’s name is no coincidence, but is bound up with the story of the original Alma and the lost manuscript.

Language and its limitations and writing are recurring themes in the novel. Leo resumes writing after 57 years; Alma keeps a journal, her brother a diary; her mother is a translator; the older Alma’s son is a writer. The novel’s imaginative twists and turns showcase the power of the written word, creating a world where fiction and reality are intertwined with the tenuous but enduring strands of love.

For On the Same Page, the Library has purchased the 2006 paperback edition of The History of Love published by W.W. Norton. It is also available at the Library in hardcover, in Large Print format, as a downloadable audiobook, and as a talking book in CD and audiocassette formats.

About the Author

Photo of Nicole Krauss Born in New York and brought up on Long Island, N.Y., Nicole Krauss, whose father was a surgeon, was very interested in science as a child, collecting insects and rocks and performing various experiments. Her ear for language may derive from her diverse family background — her grandparents hailed from Hungary, Poland, Germany, and Russia. Her mother was brought up in London and her father in Israel and New York. Krauss’s great-grandparents died in concentration camps, her great-uncles in work camps and her great-aunt, for whom she was named, in the Warsaw ghetto. Krauss was a published poet by age 19 and was a finalist for the Yale Younger Poet’s Prize. Her poems have been published in the Paris Review, Ploughshares and Doubletake. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Oxford University, as well as London’s Courtauld Institute. When her first novel, Man Walks into a Room, was published, Krauss was hailed by Esquire Magazine as “one of America’s best young writers” and her novel (a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award) as “one of the most impressive debuts of 2002.” Her highly-acclaimed second novel, The History of Love, is being made into a movie by the director of Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Krauss lives in Brooklyn with her novelist husband, Jonathan Safran Foer.

Of Related Interest

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