Monday, May 23, 2005

I just finished The History of Love by Nicole Krauss which I absolutely loved. Parts of it are narrated by Leo Gursky, an old man living in New York who escaped from Poland during WWII. He wrote a book called The History of Love for a girl named Alma he was in love with which was published under someone else's name in South America. The other main narrator is a 14-year-old girl named Alma who was named after the Alma in The History of Love and who decides to look for her namesake. This is a book about loss: Alma has lost her father and, to a certain extent, her mother is lost to grief and her little brother to his own religious idiosyncrasies. While Leo has seemingly lost everything:

"I lost Fritzy. He was studying in Vilna, Tateh - someone who knew someone told me he'd last been seen on a train. I lost Sari and Hanna to the dogs. I lost Herschel to the rain. I lost Josef to a crack in time. I lost the sound of laughter. I lost a pair of shoes, I'd taken them off to sleep, the shoes Herschel gave me, and when I woke they were gone, I walked barefoot for days and then I broke down and stole someone else's. I lost the only woman I ever wanted to love. I lost years. I lost books. I lost the house where I was born. And I lost Isaac. So who is to say that somewhere along the way, without my knowing it, I didn't also lose my mind?"

It is also a book about identity. I was struck by Leo's idea that someone else seeing you is proof of your existence and yet the ultimate irony comes to Leo, who tries so hard every day to been seen, when he finds his books are published under the names of others. And Alma is forging her identity from what she knows of her father and the things she discovers while searching for the other Alma.

This really was a beautiful book and I loved it so much that I immediately looked for her first book here but ours is missing so I have to run by another library today after work and pick it up.

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