Yid Lit: Nicole Krauss

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

Published November 16, 2010.
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Nicole Krauss is having banner year. The author of the novels “The History of Love” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006) and “Man Walks into a Room” (Anchor, 2003) was named one of the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 fiction writers and her new novel, “Great House,” came out the same month it was nominated for a National Book Award. She also appears on the 2010 Forward 50 list. “Great House” weaves together characters who have been shaped by loss and who work to create meaning by piecing together rooms, families and the shards of themselves.

We spoke recently about writing a novel without a center, creating heaven for children and the beauty of a Jewish inheritance that values questions over answers.

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An excerpt from the interview:

Allison Gaudet Yarrow: You’ve had many accolades and awards in your career and you’re still quite young. How do honors affect your work? Are they pure joy or do you feel more pressure to perform in the future?

Nicole Krauss: External pressure — I don’t even feel it anymore. Nothing could add to the load that I already gift myself with. The older I get and the more public a life I have as a writer, which is simply to say that people read my books and I’m aware of that, I naturally become more and more private. I don’t at all feel like I’ve written the book of my life yet whatever that might mean. I’m just starting to learn of all that’s possible in the novel and maybe all that might be possible for me as a writer so outside opinion and expectation kind of pales in comparison to that.

Do you consider yourself a Jewish writer? Is it a label writers try to avoid?

I try to avoid considering myself. I don’t know how else to put it. It seems like an unhealthy occupation to do that. The more I write the more I have to explore all I’ve been given. It’s a tremendously rich inheritance, but who as a writer wouldn’t want complicated material? The tension of a Jewish inheritance as a writer is a really wonderful gift. The sense of being in opposition to so much. This idea of the question being more important than the answer.

What’s next for you?

I am really looking forward to getting back to work again and to finishing this ever-stranger period in which I have to explain why I wrote what I wrote and answer questions. I want so much to give the right answer and the real answer, but I’m not sure we always know as writers and I’m not sure that we should know.

Nicole Krauss will read from “Great House,” 7 p.m., Tuesday, November 16 at the New School in Manhattan.


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