Sunday, May 15, 2011

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Blog your reactions to this multiple POV novel here.

18 comments:

Chelsea said...

I am on an iPod, therefore I apologize for any spelling errors. I like the novel, "The History of Love" so far. I have met both Leo and Alma in my readings. I have only briefly read about Alma, however, I have learned a lot about Leo. I began reading this novel during my lunch break at work. After only the first few pages I cried! I find Leo's story depressing, but it keeps me on edge to find out what will happen next...

Chelsea said...

"Every time she tries to leave, knowing it's what has to be done, the boy stops her, begging like a fool. And so she always returns, no matter how often she leaves or how far she goes, appearing soundlessly behind him and covering his eyes with her hands, spoiling for him anyone who could ever come after her." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, page 58. I enjoyed this passage. I find it ironic the title of her book is the title of Alma's mothers favorite novel. Krauss uses similes and metaphors often in her novel. "Begging like a fool," is an example of a simile in this paragraph. It seems to me that Alma's mother and Leo both suffer from a sort of depression from lost love. I find this book rather depressing myself, but intriguing at the same time. Krauss' use of numbering in this chapter really caught my attention. I am still curious as to why she used this literary style for this chapter. The way Krauss writes the novel, makes it difficult to assume what is to happen next, therefore makes the novel more exciting.

Zachary said...

What is interesting about "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss, is that through out the book while you are trying to figure out a connection between all the characters. Immediately you make a connection between Zvi and Alma singer because of the book. Then you find out Zvi wrote the obituary for Leopold's son. Just as you think that all the secrets have been discovered and all connections have been made it gets better. What started off as a small mentioning of an old friend whom Leopold last saw when they met and he exchanged a package, turned into a whole new story. Krauss had an excellent plot and she was phenomenal in unraveling this mystery. Another interesting aspect of the book was that Alma's story was written with numbers. I myself am still curious as to why she used that technique. I think that using this allowed Krauss to give facts about Alma and writing stories about Alma's past to help the readers understand Alma better.
Overall I feel that "The History of Love" was a fantastic book. It started off depressing but it ended with everyone getting something. Leopold was old and depressed. He was lonely and needed attention from Alma. Alma wanted to know the secret behind the book and wanted to help her mother's sorrows. Zvi was being killed by his conscience and was living a lie. Leopold met Alma Singer and although she wasn't his Alma, she still could provide companionship. Alma met the true author of "The History of Love". Zvi died with his lie but there was no evidence that could prove he was a fraud.

Nicole Nutter said...

"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, 11

The metaphor “and her laughter was a question…” was used to explain how much the boy was in love with the girl. It is saying he wants to spend his whole life with her. I think this quote is beautiful and perfectly describes Leopold Gursky's love for his Alma. This quote ties into the rest of the book because through out the book the boy, whose name is Leopold and is grown up, struggles with his loneliness because he could not be with the girl or his son. He realizes when it is too late that he should have tried harder to be in his son’s life. Love is of course one of the themes in this book and this quote fits into that theme. Each main character in the book is in love or falling in love and each relationship is different. Leopold Gursky is in love with Alma (the older one), but she is married to someone else and eventually dies before him. He has a kid with her and he goes on living for his kid although he never meets him. Then suddenly his son dies and Leo is lost, lonely, and sad. The younger Alma has never really been in love because she is just a kid, but she starts to develop feelings for Misha. She tries to pretend she doesn’t have feelings for him because she is afraid. Throughout the book she is trying to figure out who she really is because she is very confused. Her mother, Charlotte, is suffering from the loss of her husband. She tries to hide how sad she is, but Alma notices. The theme love in the book ties very well into another theme of loneliness. Although these characters are in love in some way, they are also very lonely. Leo is very lonely and somewhat chooses to be although he may not like it. He could contact his son, but he is too afraid. Instead he finds other ways to help his loneliness. One is that he makes up an imaginary friend called Bruno to keep him company. However, this does not make him happy again. And Alma doesn’t realize that she is setting herself up for loneliness by pretending she has no feelings for Misha. One of the things she never wants to do when she grows up is fall in love. She does somewhat realize her feelings for him in the end, but we never find out what happens to her and Misha’s relationship. One thing she does to keep her from being lonely is hang out with a boy she knows, but she is not good friends with. By doing this she realizes further more that she wants to be with Misha. Charlotte tries to hide her loneliness from her kids, but Alma knows she is sad and it puts a large toll on her. Alma even tries to set her up with men to make her happy again. However this never works. This quote might not directly involve the theme loneliness, but in this book the theme love directly ties into the theme loneliness.

Nicole Nutter said...

“Part of me is made of glass, and also, I love you.” The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, 63

In this quote, glass is a symbol of fragility. Krauss uses this to show how everyone has insecurities. This quote is from the book within The History of Love. It is words that one of the characters never said to the person he loved. This relates to the character Leopold Gursky because he had many insecurities with himself which led to him being alone. He was never able to say what he wanted to the one he loved or his own son. This symbol is very effective because it is the perfect description of how someone might feel due to his or her insecurities. This quote ties into the theme of love easily, but it also ties into the theme of loss. The quote is the words that a character in Leo’s book wanted to say to the woman he loved, but couldn’t get it out. Because he could not get himself to say these words, the woman left him. There is a lot of loss in this book for many of the characters. Leo never marries the love of his life and never meets his son. They also both die before Leo. The Singer family lost their father and it has greatly effected them. So this quote greatly reflects the reoccurring theme of loss.

Jared Randall said...

What a solid book! "Once Bruno said that if I bought a pigeon, halfway down the street it would become a dove, on the bus home a parrot, and in my apartment, the moment before I took it our of the cage, a phoenix." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg 124. It is said that Leo can make the best of a bad situation by using his imagination. It's some coincidental that a figment of his imagination tells him this! Once I finished the book and learned that Bruno was never there, that he never actually spoke these words, I realized just how true this statement was. Bruno had brought so much happiness and meaning to Leo's life after his heart attack. There's a scene in the book where Leo actually wets his pants from laughing so hard at nothing, because he has the company of Bruno. When he's racing to catch the subway to Isaac's house, Leo might not of gotten on the train without Bruno running along side him. He needed to be seen, so he was seen (and checked on regularly) by Bruno. A motif I from the novel was companionship: Alma trying to get her mom with different men, Zvi trying to impress Rosa, and Alma dumping Leo. Leo was handed a lemon, or a pigeon you could say, in the beginning of the history of his love life, but by the end he had turned that pigeon into a phoenix using only his imagination, peeing his pants in the process.

Zachary said...

"I often wonder who will be the last person to see me alive. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the delivery boy from the Chinese take-out. I order in four nights out of seven."
"I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty. If the store is crowded I'll even go so far as dropping my change all over the floor, the nickels and dimes skidding in every direction." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg 1. Krauss immediately sets the tone of the book. She has used these passages to tell the reader something about Leopold Gursky. These passages are used to make the reader ponder as to what happened to this man. His apartment is a complete mess and he doesn't care. Which signifies that he doesn't get company and he doesn't care about what people say. He is more concerned about who will last see him die then death itself. Leo says it may be the Chinese take-out boy instead of someone more significant. So this tells us that he doesn't get company and he has no one else more important that he would rather be with when he dies. Finally, he says that he likes being seena dn getting attention. This just adds on the fact that he doesn't have very many friends or family that give him attention. All these clues are foreshadowing a story of the man and the downfall of this character. The big question is who was Leopold Gursky? And what happened to him?

Jared Randall said...

"perhaps it was because he knew that to remove her name would be like erasing all the punctuation, and the vowels, and every adjective and noun. Because without Alma, there would have been no book." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg 184. Alma is the reason this book was made. Without Alma, there would have been no inspiration for Leo's love, what compelled the writing of the book. Without that love (though fictional), there would be no inspiration for Krausses book. If Alma, the symbol for both stories' love, was extracted, you might as well read a book with no nouns or adjectives or vowels or emotion. The History of Love is a love story, through and through. It is love that holds connections between every person in this book, through heartbreak or infatuation. It was such a good book because of the drive these love stories provided. Because of the drive Alma provided. Even though Zvi wanted to impress Rosa with his "new" book, Alma was the story, not her.

James said...

"When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT. I'm surprised I haven't been buried alive." History of Love Nicole Krauss pg 1 This is how the book starts out. First thing that came to my mind when I read these first couple of sentences was, is Leo going to die this early in the book. When reading this I though people have been throwing stuff at his apartment and people were after him. But come to find out I was totally wrong. People didn't want to kill Leo. His apartment was full of junk. But these sentences foreshadowed in the book people are looking for Leo. Later on we will find out who this Leo character is and why people want to find him so bad. You will also find out who wants to find Leo.

Terry said...

"I'm surprised I haven;t been buried alive. The place isn't big. I have to struggle to keep a path clear between bed and toilet, toilet and ktichen table, kitchen table and front door." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss page 1.

I felt like I was about to watch a episode of hoarders. Also I was thrown off by the title thinking it would be a happier story. Not filled with depression and suicide attempts in the first chapter. It makes me want to read on through the story to find out what other surprises could be waiting.

Jessie said...

"Like so I entered my son's house: draped in his coat, his shoes on my feet. I was as close as I'd ever been to him. As far away." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, page 165.

Nicole Krauss uses allegory to symbolize Leo's son Isaac after he's dead. The coat and shoes that Leo puts on and just Isaacs house itself are all symbols of Isaac. Leo never knew his son and this was the closest he had come to his son his whole life but still the farthest he had ever been. Krauss's intentions for using allegory was to show that love is everywhere and you don't have to see the person everyday or even at all to love them. She shows that Leo loved his son more than anything in the world and he didn't have to know him to love him. When Leo is putting on Isaacs old clothes and running shoes it brings him that much closer to knowing the son he loved. All of the things in the house allow Leo to learn more about what his son looked like and what he liked to do but in the end he's the farthest he's ever been from his son. The way Krauss displays Leo's emotions just supports her intentions in using allegory here. It shows Leo doesn't need his son to be present for him to love Isaac all he needs to memories and his love will last forever. One of the over all themes in this book is love and this passage shows that and supports it. The passage is all about the love a father has for his son. Through out the book you hear Leo speak of his son and think so highly of him and he's never even met him. The only thing keeping him loving Isaac is just knowing Isaac's his son and no one else's.

Jessie said...

“It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky. My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold on to a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world.” The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, page 45

Krauss uses a metaphor to describe how Alma’s mother has been surviving the loss of her husband all these years. When it says “having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.” that was the first part of the metaphor. The second part was “My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold on to a feeling, she sacrificed the world.” this describes the how her mother is dealing with it perfectly because her mother doesn’t really live in the world anymore she stays home and keeps to herself she’s put herself in a shell of memories from her husband and that’s what she has been living off of. Instead of trying to live off of everything in the world and trying to survive by moving on and remembering things just as they come she chose to close of the changing world and to keep the small memories and life with her husband real and alive and not moving on. The major theme in this book was love and this shows a very strong love that the mother had for her husband. She loved her husband so much and when he died she did too. What keeps her going was the wall of memories she made around herself keeping him in her world and not letting her world change with the world just keeping her thoughts and everything as protection from the truth that her husband is gone and she is on her own.

James said...

"Couldn't you stay somewhere else for the night? In the morning it'll be easy to find a locksmith. they're a dime a dozen." History of Love Nicole Krauss pg 20 I found this to be a very interesting quote. Leo was asked if he could unlock the door because he is a locksmith. But Leo turned the job down because it was raining outside and didn't want to out in the rain. Leo says can't you stay somewhere else for the night and the person says no. Leo still doesn't want to go and say you can find them all over the place and he is hinting why did you chose me out of all the people in the town. Leo is acting selfish and isn't thinking about other people in this quote. This person doesn't have any where else to go and he still wouldn't help this person. This shows a side to Leo that we don't see a lot. He finally gives in and tells the person he will do it.

Dylan Gillis said...

"Three times he asked her. She shook her head. 'I can't,' she said. She looked down at the floor. 'Please,' she said. And so he did the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life: he picked up his hat and walked away." History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg 13. This quote shows the beginning of a long struggle for Leo Gursky. He traveled all the way to America with just an address written down on a crumpled up piece of paper. He said he would never love anyone else besides the woman he is currently traveling this great distance for. Leo already had to let her leave for America years before so she would be safe from attacks on Jews. He eventually finds her after all this time, but also finds out she has a new husband, and has given birth to his son. He has found the love of his life after years of solitude and has to leave within minutes. The theme is how love gives on a reason to live. Leo continued to live and return to the one he loved, but it was too late when he found her and she was forced to move on. As backwards as it seems he agreed to leave because he loved her so much. He knew she wanted him to leave since it was for the best for her and her new family.

Dmitri R said...

"The next table over there was a girl with blue hair leaning over a notebook and chewing on a ballpoint pen, and at the table next to her was a little boy in a soccer uniform sitting with his mother who told him, The plural of elf is elves. A wave of happiness came over me. It felt giddy to be part of it all. To be drinking a cup of coffee like a normal person. I wanted to shout out: The plural of elf is elves! What a language! What a world!" The History of Love, NICOLE KRAUSS pg. (Undefined, using ebook.)

The literary device used in the passage above is a hyperbole of "A wave of happiness came over me." It's used to express Leopold's happiness when being integrated as a normal part of society. This is a practical psychological response, as it stems from our own basic need to belong. However, most people ARE a part of society on a regulatory basis, so claiming that this brings great joy to him just shows the extent that his loneliness has affected him. Loneliness is a major theme in the novel, while portrayed well in the novel by almost all the main characters, no one is quite the avatar as Leopold. His habits of always making sure he's seen, and even the creation of his imaginary friend, just go to show the sorrowful and depressed existence that he flourishes in.

Dmitri R said...

"THE DEATH OF LEOPOLD GURSKY Leopold Gursky started dying on August 18, 1920. He died learning to walk. He died standing at the blackboard. And once, also, carrying a heavy tray. He died practicing a new way to sign his name. Opening a window. Washing his genitals in the bath. He died alone, because he was too embarrassed to phone anyone. Or he died thinking about Alma. Or when he chose not to. Really, there isn't much to say. He was a great writer. He fell in love. It was his life." The History of Love, NICOLE KRAUSS pg. (Undefined, using ebook.)

The prime literary device here is alliteration. The alliteration of Leopold Gurky's death, which is implied began when he was born. This is a harsh, but crux fact of life. Since the day we are born we are dying, as we walk, as we talk, as we write, as we live our own lives no matter how meager or inconsequential events seem, we are dying. However, the end of the passage hits the nail on the head. While we are constantly dying, it's important to be dying wisely. Leopold was dying without Alma, he and was dying when he missed the chance to keep her beside him. Now he has to spend the remainder of his life dying without her. Death is a reoccurring theme in the book, as are missed opportunities. For Leopold death has rendered him a lonely man, where all of those whom he loved, whether they were aware of his presence or not have died before him.

Dylan Gillis said...

"A wave of happiness came over me. It felt giddy to be part of it all. To be drinking a cup of coffee like a normal person. I wanted to shout out: 'The plural of elf is elves! What a language! What a world!' History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg 76. Leo Gursky is usually a pessimistic man, looking for attention at any moment possible, but here is extremely optimistic about the smallest things in the world. He is ecstatic to be normal person and drink a normal cup of hot coffee. He then calls Bruno to share the good news. He lets him know, and sounds hysterical in doing so, that living life is a joyous moment and thing of beauty. This is a major part of the theme of this novel. The theme, that love and loved ones makes life worth living, is shown here, but instead of his close loved ones, it's the warm cup of coffee, blue haired lady, and the little boy with his mother. Leo feels normal for once in his life and loves everything about it. It is the moments like this for Leo, himself, that makes life worth living.

Chelsea said...

"I felt my heart surge. I thought: I've lived this long. Please. A little longer won't kill me." The History of Love, Nicole Krauss, pg. 252. The way Krauss has printed the ending scene of the book is brilliant. The breif passages of both Alma and Leo's conversation on seperate pages makes the final moments so intense. It is very ironic that at this moment Leo is feel closer to death, yet through out the book he is waiting for death patiently. I will admit it was slowat the begining for me, but once I understood what was happening I loved the book at the end. I think its a wonderful novel! Very challenging and different.