THE HISTORY OF LOVE
Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn’t know it,
Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn’t know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. She undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With consummate, spellbinding skill, Nicole Krauss gradually draws together their stories.
Inspired by the author’s four grandparents and by a pantheon of authors, such as Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, and Isaac Babel, this book is truly a history of love—a tale brimming with laughter, irony, passion, and soaring imaginative power.
“Beyond the vigorous whiplash that keeps Ms. Krauss’s History of Love moving (and keeps its reader off balance until a stunning finale), this novel is tightly packed with ingenious asides. . . . Even at their most odd-ball, these flourishes reflect the deep, surprising wisdom that gives this novel its ultimate heft. . . . Ms. Krauss’s work is illuminated by the warmth and delicacy of her prose.” —Janet Maslin, New York Times
Leo fears becoming invisible. How does fiction writing prove a balm for his anxiety?
Despite his preoccupation with his approaching death, Leo has a spirit that is indefatigably comic. Describe the interplay of tragedy and comedy in The History of Love.
What distinguishes parental love from romantic love in the novel?
Uncle Julian tells Alma, “Wittgenstein once wrote that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it.” How does this philosophical take on the artistic process relate to the impulse to write in The History of Love?
Many different narrators contribute to the story of The History of Love. What makes each of their voices unique? How does Krauss seam them together to make a coherent novel?
Survival requires different tactics in different environments. Aside from Alma’s wilderness guidelines, what measures do the characters in the novel adopt to carry on?
Most all of the characters in the novel are writers—from Isaac Moritz to Bird Singer. Alma’s mother is somewhat exceptional, as she works as a translator. Yet she is not the only character to transform others’ words for her creative practice. What are the similarities and differences between an author and a translator?
The fame and adulation Isaac Moritz earns for his novels represent the rewards many writers hope for, while Leo, an unwitting ghostwriter, remains unrecognized for his work. What role does validation play in the many acts of writing in The History of Love?
Leo decides to model nude for an art class in order to leave an imprint of his existence. He writes to preserve the memories of his love for Alma Mereminski. Yet drawings and novels are never faithful renditions of the truth. Do you recognize a process of erasure in the stories he tells us?
Why might Krauss have given her novel the title The History of Love, the same as that of the fictional book around which her narrative centers?