Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Leo Gursky and Alma Singer make an unlikely pair, but what they
share in common ultimately brings them together. What are the similarities
between these two characters?
- Leo fears becoming invisible. How does fiction writing prove a balm for
- Explore the theme of authenticity throughout the narrative. Who's real
and who's a fraud?
- Despite his preoccupation with his approaching death, Leo has a spirit
that is indefatigably comic. Describe the interplay of tragedy and comedy in
The History of Love.
- What distinguishes parental love from romantic love in the novel?
- Why is it so important to Alma that Bird act normal? How normal is Alma?
- When Alma meets Leo, she calls him the "oldest man in the world." Does
his voice sound so ancient?
- Uncle Julian tells Alma, "Wittgenstein once wrote that when the eye sees
something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it." How does this philosophical
take on the artistic process relate to the impulse to write in The
History of Love?
- Many different narrators contribute to the story of The History of
Love. What makes each of their voices unique? How does Krauss seam them
together to make a coherent novel?
- Survival requires different tactics in different environments. Aside
from Alma's wilderness guidelines, what measures do the characters in the
novel adopt to carry on?
- Most all of the characters in the novel are writersfrom Isaac Moritz to
Bird Singer. Alma's mother is somewhat exceptional, as she works as a
translator. Yet she is not the only character to transform others' words for
her creative practice. What are the similarities and differences between an
author and a translator?
- What are the benefits of friendship in the novel? Why might Alma feel
more comfortable remaining Misha's friend rather than becoming his
- The fame and adulation Isaac Moritz earns for his novels represent the
rewards many writers hope for, while Leo, an unwitting ghostwriter, remains
unrecognized for his work. What role does validation play in the many acts
of writing in The History of Love?
- Leo decides to model nude for an art class in order to leave an imprint
of his existence. He writes to preserve the memories of his love for Alma
Mereminski. Yet drawings and novels are never faithful renditions of the
truth. Do you recognize a process of erasure in the stories he tells us?
- Why might Krauss have given her novel the title The History of Love,
the same as that of the fictional book around which her narrative centers?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.