THE HISTORY OF LOVE By Nicole Krauss. 255 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $23.95.
It would be unfair to liken Nicole Krauss's second novel, "The History of Love," to "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," the recently published second novel by her better-known husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, except for two things. The first is the deliberate and liberal sprinkling of correspondences between the two books, a system of coy marital cross-referencing that amounts to an engraved invitation to compare and contrast. The second, and more significant, is that Krauss is one of fiction's dutiful daughters. She has written almost entirely under the influence of powerful literary fathers, an assemblage of canonical figures including (to list only those explicitly cited in "The History of Love"), Isaac Babel, Franz Kafka and Bruno Schulz. That the relatively young and untried Foer has joined them in her pantheon represents only a slight deviation from form.
Krauss's first novel, "Man Walks Into a Room" (2002), carefully followed the recipe for making a postmodern novel of ideas after the fashion of Don DeLillo. It's the story of a man with an improbable case of amnesia who visits a neurology clinic specializing in transplanting memories from one brain to another. The clinic is out in the Mojave Desert, and nuclear testing inevitably comes into the proceedings as the characters drift around in a state of cathode-ray-tinted detachment, meditating on the metaphysical implications of space travel and People magazine. It's an intelligent book but, for all its self-conscious hypermodernity, very cautious and therefore unexciting.
"The History of Love" has more vigor, partly because this time the mode, à la Foer, is sentimental Jewish magic realism. The novel is about three people. The first, Leo Gursky, is an aged Manhattan locksmith who, during his youth in Poland, wrote a novel, "The History of Love," inspired by his love for a girl from his village; he lost both the girl and the manuscript. The second, Alma Singer, is a 14-year-old Brooklynite named after every female character in that novel. The third, Zvi Litvinoff, connects them. Unbeknownst to Leo, Litvinoff published "The History of Love," translated from its original Yiddish into Spanish, under his own name in Chile during the 1950's or early 1960's. Sometime later, traveling through South America, Alma's father discovered and fell in love with the book.
As is so often the case, what we are shown of the book-within-a-book in "The History of Love" is underwhelming. (If the book-within-a-book were really so terrific, the author would have written that book instead.) The glimpses offered consist of chapters describing an imaginary and overly adorable chronicle of human affection, beginning with "The Age of Silence," during which people communicated only by gesture, and continuing through "The Age of Glass," when "everyone believed some part of him or her to be extremely fragile," and "The Age of String," when "it wasn't uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations." When a beloved woman appears in these vignettes, she is always named Alma, after the girl Leo loved. The formula, in short, is equal parts Italo Calvino and corn syrup.
There is, however, another book-within-a-book that turns up in "The History of Love," one so incongruous and so abruptly abandoned you can't help but notice it. At one point, the lonely, kvetching Leo -- a sort of denatured Philip Roth character, who complains about his bowels and makes minor scenes in shoe stores to ensure he won't "die on a day when I went unseen" -- receives by mysterious provenance a printout of an English translation of "The History of Love." He is thunderstruck by a possibility: "COULD I BE FAMOUS WITHOUT KNOWING IT?"Continue reading the main story
A Love Story Essays
662 Words3 Pages
I met her two years ago and we did not have much to say at that time. Little did I know that she would later steal my heart and become an intimate part of my life. As the saying goes "there is someone for anyone at any time in this life" and I was about to find out that this saying was so true. I have had a wall built around me and my defense was as a stronghold to protect myself from all the relationships that have come and gone over the years. I thought that I was meant to be alone in this old life and happiness was forever gone from me. This wonderful woman I am speaking of is Mary Doe, and the joy she has given me has revived my hope and faith that I may have finally found love and peace within. She has made me feel like I am a child…show more content…
I met her two years ago and we did not have much to say at that time. Little did I know that she would later steal my heart and become an intimate part of my life. As the saying goes "there is someone for anyone at any time in this life" and I was about to find out that this saying was so true. I have had a wall built around me and my defense was as a stronghold to protect myself from all the relationships that have come and gone over the years. I thought that I was meant to be alone in this old life and happiness was forever gone from me. This wonderful woman I am speaking of is Mary Doe, and the joy she has given me has revived my hope and faith that I may have finally found love and peace within. She has made me feel like I am a child and I am holding on to her with loving arms and a smile that seems to never end. It has been such a long time since I have felt this way and I am so happy at last. I have learned so much from my past and will never forget the lessons I have been through. Being a kid at heart, but still with age creeping up on me, I have been told by Mary Doe that as long as we are together we will grow old side by side and enjoy life as long as we live. I have asked myself many times, "why did I not settle down as a younger man" and now I have the answer. It was time and destiny that we should meet and find love with one another. Am I scared, just a little, but it is not of loseing her I may add. She is laying in bed now asleep as I write this and I barely