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Powell's Q&A

Nicole Krauss

Describe your latest project.
A man who falls in love at the age of ten, and stays in love for the rest of his life. A son who doesn't know of his father's existence. A mysterious book published under the wrong person's name, in the wrong language, with only one clue that points to the real author. A girl named Alma living in New York, searching for a man her mother could love. An eleven-year-old boy who believes he's the Messiah. A man who thinks part of him is made of glass; a natural history of angels; The Age of Silence; an obituary for someone who never died; an ark built in a vacant lot; a story within a story within a story about survival...

These are some of the elements of The History of Love, which travels from New York, to Chile, to Israel, to a village in Poland, from contemporary times to the years before and after the Second World War, and between the voices of two characters (one at the end of his life, and one at the beginning of hers) and a book's imagined history.

  1. The History of Love: A Novel
    $7.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "[I]ngenious and coherent....Krauss has created a crazy spiderweb of associations and missed connections. Miraculously, she actually manages to make all the delicate filaments not only hold together but support the weight of the enormously ambitious narrative. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
  2. Man Walks into a Room
    $6.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Man Walks into a Room

    Nicole Krauss
    "A deeply philosophical novel, one that strikes upon the nagging paradoxes of modern life...With the character of Samson Greene, Nicole Krauss puts a human face on these concerns, and — in prose that shimmers with intelligence — tells us his potent and memorable story." The Sun-Sentinel

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good place to start.
I'm having a hard time choosing — there are so many authors whose books I'd like to press upon any reader nice enough to ask. Danilo Kis, to begin with, who was born in 1935 in Yugoslavia. I'd suggest starting with Garden, Ashes (republished last year in an excellent translation by Dalkey Archive), an astonishing, beautiful story of a childhood lived during the Second World War, and of the transformative power of the imagination in the face of historical tragedy. Roberto Bolaño also comes to mind, a Chilean writer who died a few years ago, far too early, at the age of fifty. New Directions has just started to publish his books in English. By Night in Chile -- a deathbed confession written in one breath, a single, unbroken paragraph that covers the territory of a life -- is exquisite. I also love The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt and The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald. This morning I finished the Brazilian writer Chico Buarque's new novel, Budapest, and now I want to read it all over again, it's that good.

What is your astrological sign?
I'm a Leo. Sometime after I finished The History of Love, one of whose main characters is named Leo Gursky, I gave it to my mother to read. She reminded me something I'd forgotten: "Your great Uncle was named Leo," she said, "the one who lived in Uruguay." And then, as an afterthought: "And you're a Leo, too." Until then the parallel hadn't occurred to me.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
Yesterday a friend and I went to see a small exhibition of Rembrandt's late religious portraits at the National Gallery in D.C., and afterwards he bought me the catalogue as a gift. I didn't so much read it as look at the pictures. I love Rembrandt, and whenever I encounter one of his portraits I feel like I'm returning to a profoundly familiar room, where everything is cast in a particular light and weight. One of the things I thought about a lot while looking first at the paintings, and then at the pictures of the paintings in the book, is how much Rembrandt can do with nothing: a white collar, a cuff, the no man's land of a turban or sleeve. It's not just that he can paint nothing well: it's that, at least toward the end of his life, he actually seemed to prefer it.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Aside from world peace, a global end to starvation and the destruction of the environment, and a permanent international establishment of human and animal rights? I don't know... Health, a long life, the safety of those I love. Immortality for my dog, George.

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"You have to be careful, ask yourself questions, as for example whether you still are, and if no when it stopped, and if yes how long it will still go on, anything at all to keep from losing the thread of the dream." — Samuel Beckett, Molloy spacer

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