the history of love/nicole krauss
Plotted with exquisite precision, propelled by deeply sympathetic characters, and crammed full of mysteries and solutions, The History of Love recounts the stories of a 15-year-old girl and a Holocaust survivor. It is also the story of a book (The History of Love). Nicole Krauss understands books to be what no other medium is: self-contained, tough, mobile over continents and generations and languages, full of the future tempered by a piece of someone’s soul. The History of Love (the novel within the novel) has a provenance that knows no borders: written in Poland, manuscript given away then stolen, conceived in Yiddish, translated to Spanish, published in Argentina, found by a Jewish traveler, given to his wife, secretly translated into English, AND MORE. In Krauss’s telling, none of this is random, and even though characters act independently of each other, the larger plan somehow manifests G*d in the lives of the Living. According to Krauss, when the soul of the writer is pure, a book becomes an immanent sacred object. And in that way, books are a lot like love, only rectangular and full of numbered pages.
If we esteemed writers by what their novels hold faith with, Nicole Krauss would sweep this year’s fiction awards. Besides the faith in the power of the written word, there’s faith in the integrity and goodness of young outsiders, in the quest to redeem history in old age, in the ability of human beings to shape their own destiny no matter how complicated and compromised, in the presence of love as an active agent for good in the universe. Last, but not least, Krauss has faith that writers can change the world through writing. If they can, and she has, then we’re just a little better off today than we were before The History of Love came into the world of readers.