‘Great House’ builds on Nicole Krauss` success

New York: American author Nicole Krauss has no doubt she will keep writing novels even if her latest, the solemn and weighty ‘Great House’, is not adored around the world as much as her last effort.

But chances are, she may not have to deal with failure on any level because her third novel hit U.S. bookstores this week to critical acclaim and already delivered her a ‘National Book Award’ nomination for fiction.

The Brooklyn-based writer, now 36, was hailed years ago as one of America`s young literary stars after the success of her 2005 novel, ‘The History of Love’, which was translated into dozens of languages.

Yet, having any readers comes as a surprise for Krauss.

"It was so completely unexpected that people would like `The History of Love` ... I was absolutely sure that no great number of readers would have the patience or desire to finish or get through that book," she said, "if I don`t have it again, I can live with that."

In order to write ‘Great House’, which captures loneliness and solitude similarly to ‘The History of Love’ but is less playful in tone, Krauss eventually escaped the public sphere to return to the anxiety of writing a novel again.

"There was a period of needing to detox from that," she said about the period following the last novel. "I felt anxious that book would never come together, that it would be a failure. That was nothing compared to the anxiety and sense of potential failure of writing this book."


In ‘Great House’, which is published by W.W. Norton & Co., Krauss uses an antique desk to create a link between her characters across continents as they are forced to examine what Krauss calls one theme of "the burden of inheritance."

"I was deeply occupied with that idea of emotional inheritance, and do we pass on our sadness?" she said.

Krauss is reluctant to sum up ‘Great House’ in any condensed fashion, but did say it also addressed uncertainty, mirroring her writing process that required having no idea where the book would lead.

"This willful uncertainty, that I held myself to, became a theme in the book for the characters who are struggling with their own doubts and uncertainties," she said.

Settings from London to Jerusalem and New York reflect her travels and heritage with an English mother and a father who grew up in Israel.

"You have all these places that contribute to my rather obscure sense of home. And every writer to some degree or other, feels she is in exile in some way. Writing is an effort to create some sense of the ideal home," she said.

That sense of exile contributed to her remarkable ability to capture the solitude readers have enjoyed in her novels. Leopold Gursky from ‘The History of Love’ has been called one of the great characters of recent fiction.

"I grew up with a lot of solitude basically," she said.

"Books were my love, my world and really my upbringing in a lot of ways, so it`s again no surprise that I decided to make a life there, build my house there."

In considering her recent success, the former poet remains humbled by her past.

"It`s not that long ago I was a writer seeking out to write her first novel." she said. "I have a strong sense of what it was not be no writer at all."

Bureau Report