Nicole Krauss spent her childhood on Long Island and has degrees from Stanford and
Oxford. Well into her twenties, she wrote poetry, which "felt like the
great goal of the language." (She was a lot like the 14-year-old narrator of
The History of Love, Alma Singer, who wants to be a survivalist, compiles obsessive lists, and is an avid collector). Then she abruptly quit
poetry having set aside "an impossible quest for poetic precision."
Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room (2002), was very well received and was followed by a six-figure, two-book deal. Speaking of her first book she says, "Getting a book published made me feel a little bit sad... I felt driven by the need to write a book, rather than the need to write. I needed to figure out what was important to me as a writer." While she was writing The History of Love (2005), "There was a real loosening of control. There was no end in sight, no synthesis at all until finally there it was."
She was married to the author Jonathan Safran Foer - a subject she has always tended to avoid talking about in interviews because she prefers that her work stand alone. Their debuts both appeared on the "best-of-lists" of 2002, and some reviewers felt that their second books bare striking similarities, that the two must collaborate. (Both second books revolve around fathers, exiled from Europe, who have outlived sons they've never met). Krauss describes such comparisons as "laughable", insisting that they do not collaborate and that they don't even read each other's proofs until the end.
The reality seems to be simply that their interests ran parallel; for example, before they even met, she did her Oxford thesis on compulsive collector-artist Joseph Cornell, and Foer created a poetry anthology inspired by Cornell's work; and both their family histories are rooted in the Holocaust, but they are both uncomfortable with having their books pigeonholded as "Jewish fiction." Growing up in a Jewish neighborhood, Krauss "wanted to have nothing to do with anything Jewish at all." but she's clearly begun returning to that history: A few years ago, she began recording conversations with her grandparents, for a semi-fictional piece she might publish someday. The History of Love (2005) is dedicated to "Jonathan, my life" and "My grandparents, who taught me the opposite of disappearing."
Krauss and Foer legally separated in 2014 in what is believed to be an amicable split.
Krauss's fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, and Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. She completed a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, and her novel, Great House was published in October, 2010. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Nicole Krauss explains what inspired her to write A History of Love
I started to write The History of Love in the spring of 2002, just
after my first novel was published. It was a strange time: wonderful, but also
melancholy. Something about the feeling of writing seemed to change for me once
the book was published. I felt, a bit, as if I'd lost something hard to put my
finger on, something personal and natural that I'd loved about writing. I was
working on a new book, but my heart wasn't quite in it. So one day I decided to
throw away the hundred or so pages I had. I wanted to give up my old ideas about
writing - or at least about trying to write well - and just write something for
myself. To no end. A nothing.
Soon after that, Leo's voice appeared on the page. It was so familiar to me: at once the easiest thing I'd ever written, and also the most alive. Sometimes I even confused his voice with my own, or was unable to tell us apart; strange to say, considering he's an eighty-year-old man from Poland. But with the arrival of Leo's voice, I found a way to write about things that were personal without being autobiographical. To me that's an important distinction. If I...
Blood at the Root
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