The History of Love

The History of Love

4.0 214
by Nicole Krauss
     
 

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"Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. 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 although he doesn't know it, that… See more details below

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Overview

"Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. 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 although he doesn't know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives." Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.

Editorial Reviews

New York
“A significant novel, genuinely one of the year’s best. Emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense.”
Guardian

Krauss writes like an angel.

Janet Maslin - New York Times

Vertiginously exciting.... Beyond the vigorous whiplash that keeps 'The 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 oddball, these flourishes reflect the deep, surprising wisdom that gives this novel its ultimate heft.

Claire Messud - LA Weekly

The novel's achievement is precisely this: to have made a new fiction—alternately delightful and hilarious and deeply affecting.

Andre Aciman

Nicole Krauss's Leo Gursky is all voice—frisky, aching, jittery, stunning, heart-rending, irresistible. There's nothing like his voice, nor will there ever be. A cross between I.B. Singer and Woody Allen, Kafka and Leopold Bloom, [it] doesn't just work its way into the pantheon of American voices: it literally walks straight up to them and asks them to move over—or else it will haunt their living days and nights. And it does just that.

Ron Charles
Even in moments of startling peculiarity, [Krauss] touches the most common elements of the heart. For Leo, obsessed with his death but struggling to be noticed, and for Alma, ready to grow up but arrested by her mother's grief, the persistence of love drives them to an astonishing connection. In the final pages, the fractured stories of The History of Love fall together like a desperate embrace.
— The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
There are also two kinds of writers given to the verbal tangents and cartwheels and curlicues that adorn Ms. Krauss's vertiginously exciting second novel: those whose pyrotechnics lead somewhere and those who are merely showing off. While there are times when Ms. Krauss's gamesmanship risks overpowering her larger purpose, her book's resolution pulls everything that precedes it into sharp focus. It has been headed for this moment of truth all along.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The last words of this haunting novel resonate like a pealing bell. "He fell in love. It was his life." This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. When he leaves his tiny apartment, he deliberately draws attention to himself to be sure he exists. What's really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man's name. Another family in New York has also been truncated by loss. Teenager Alma Singer, who was named after the heroine of The History of Love, is trying to ease the loneliness of her widowed mother, Charlotte. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen. Krauss (Man Walks into a Room) ties these and other plot strands together with surprising twists and turns, chronicling the survival of the human spirit against all odds. Writing with tenderness about eccentric characters, she uses earthy humor to mask pain and to question the universe. Her distinctive voice is both plangent and wry, and her imagination encompasses many worlds. Agent, Bill Clegg at Burnes & Clegg. First serial to the New Yorker; BOMC, QPB and Reader's Subscription selections; author tour; film rights to Warner Brothers; audio rights to Recorded Books; foreign rights sold in 15 countries. (May 2) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A boy in Poland falls in love and writes a book when World War II arrives, and both the love and the book are lost. Leo Gursky, now in his eighties and living in New York City, struggles to be noticed each day so that people will know he has not yet died. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Alma Singer wants her brother to be normal and her mother to be happy again after the death of Alma's father. In a quest for the story behind her name, Alma and Leo find each other, and Leo learns that the book he wrote so long ago has not been lost. Krauss (Man Walks into a Room) develops the story beautifully, incrementally revealing details to expose more and more of the mystery behind Leo's book, The History of Love. At the end, some uncertainty remains about a few of the characters, but it does not matter because the important connections between them are made. Recommended for literary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Sarah Conrad Weisman, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The histories of several unresolved, inchoate and remembered loves. The first of the stories here is that of New York City octogenarian Leo Gursky, a Polish war refugee who came to America seeking Alma, the girl he had loved, who had emigrated before him. Following a bleakly funny opening sequence that sharply dramatizes Leo's undiminishable vitality, and also reveals teasing details about Alma's American life, second-novelist Krauss (Man Walks into a Room, 2002) shifts the focus to adolescent Alma Singer, who's edging cautiously toward womanhood while dealing with her unstable younger brother Emanuel (aka "Bird") and widowed mother Charlotte (a literary translator). Alma's memories of her late father, a cancer victim, take the forms of a fixation on survival techniques and an obsession with an autobiographical book (which Charlotte translates): a homage to another Alma, and the work of Holocaust survivor Zvi Litvinoff, whose resemblances to and connections with Leo Gursky lie at the heart of this novel's unfolding mysteries. Suffice it to say that each of Krauss's searching and sentient characters is both exactly who he or she seems to be and another person entirely, and that that paradox is expertly worked out as Krauss gradually reveals the provenance of the eponymous History; the relationship that embraces Litvinoff, Gursky and the latter's mysterious upstairs neighbor Bruno; and the woman or women they "all" loved and lost. These enigmas are deepened and underscored by the chaotic "diary" in which Bird records the apocalyptic fantasies that are at heart his own history of love and loss, another son's search for another father, and an affirmation of the compensation for loss throughexercise of the imagination that this brilliant novel itself so memorably incarnates. A most unusual and original piece of fiction-and not to be missed. First serial to New Yorker; film rights to Warner Bros., David Heyman to produce and Alfonso Cuaron to direct; Book-of-the-Month Club, Quality Paperback Book Club selection; author tour
Spectator
“One of the most passionate vindications of the written word in recent fiction. It takes one’s breath away.”
Vogue
“Confirms the depth and breadth of her talent.”
New York Times
“Vertiginously exciting.”
Washington Post
“At least as heartbreaking as it is hilarious.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Moving and virtuosic.”
Ali Smith
“It restores your faith in fiction. It restores all sorts of faith.”
Miami Herald
“It’s the sort of book that makes life bearable after all.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393328622
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/24/2006
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
341
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.54(h) x 0.64(d)

Meet the Author

Nicole Krauss has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of America’s most important novelists.” She is the author of the international bestseller Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Man Walks Into a Room. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages.

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