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Key Plot Mysteries of The History of Love Questions and Answers


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Initial post: Jan 12, 2011 12:28:43 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2011 10:54:08 AM PST
Robert says:
This delightful and excellently written book, to paraphrase a NYT book review, is mesmerizingly intricate and complex. Having recently prepared for a book club discussion, I am sharing some of that information in the hopes a wider audience may enjoy a fuller understanding of the plot of this book.
Quotes and citations are from the first edition of the paperback and hard back - identical page citations in each. Questions are presented in this segment and will be followed by repeating the questions along with citations, quotes and sometimes with my conclusions and observations in subsequent parts on this discussion forum.
Thanks to some discoveries courtesy of this discussion forum and a big THANK YOU to Nicole Krauss for for an incredible book full of mystery, life, and beautiful prose.
Please call attention to any errors and provide answers to questions unanswered.
ANSWERS BELOW
Somewhat like the satisfaction and pleasure of solving a crossword, soduku, puzzle, or mystery novel. But, Krauss does not clearly disclose-which challenge makes it all the more fun. I find the delight of finding and being shown equally pleasurable.

1. Who was the girl who opened the door at the art school where Leo posed (p15)? Answers to all below.

2. Was Bruno imaginary? When did the real-life Bruno die? When did Leo say his Bruno died?

3. Who was Jacob Marcus? Why was this name used, where did it come from? How did Alma S learn Jacob Marcus' true name? How did Jacob Marcus discover the History of Love and why did he ask Charlotte Singer to translate it?

4. How does Alma M track down the true identity of Jacob Marcus and find Leo?

5. How did Isaac come to know The History of Love and that the author of THOL was his father?

6. How did David Singer come to know The History of Love?

7. Did Isaac know who his father was and if he was alive, and that he wrote The History of Love? By whom, and why, were The History of Love English manuscript put under Leo's pillow and the notes sent to Leo and to Alma S to meet at the zoo? 

8. What did Leo do to reach out to Isaac? To Alma M?

9. How did the manuscript of The History of Love come into Zvi's possession?

10. Why did Zvi publish The History of Love? Why in his name? What did this do to Zvi? What did Rosa do when she discovered who had written The History of Love? Did Zvi once have a romantic relationship with Alma M?

11. What concessions to his conscience did Zvi make for his plagiarism?

12. How did the manuscript of Words for Everything get into Isaac's home?
How did Words for Everything get into a publication cycle and pre-publication magazine article under Isaac's name as author? Did Isaac plagiarize it? Did Isaac know who his father was? Did Isaac read Words for Everything and know who wrote it? What is the origin of the title of this book?

13. What is the significance of the segment describing Leo's picking the lock for the apartment owner?

14. How did Alma Singer come to be named Alma?

15. What was Charlotte's reaction to David's death?

16. What was Alma Singer's quest? What was she looking for, what drove her?

17. What are the chapter/segment titles of The History of Love by Leo included in THOL?

18. What is the significance of the icons at the beginning of each chapter? What is the association?

19. What did you think of the many obituaries in THOL?

20. What did you think of the ending? What did you think of the book's title? What Alternate name might have been given THOL?

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 12:34:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2011 1:49:43 PM PST
Robert says:
Q 1 - 9:
1. Who was the girl who opened the door at the art school where Leo posed?
P15-17 Leo: " I reached for the door and it swung open. A girl wearing a sweater too big for her comes out...There were tiny holes in the sweater. It came down to her knees...Second floor, first room on the right...[As Leo poses, p17:] ... sitting in chairs holding their drawing pads. The girl with the big sweater was there...; "
p42 Alma: "... one day I came home...and every obvious sign of him was gone...out in the street ...a pile garbage bags...I watched it through the window...I went out and fished his sweater out of the trash bin."
p49 "on the twelfth day ... What's up with that disgusting sweater? ... I decided to wear Dad's sweater for the rest of my life. By May it was unbearable." Chapter title "... I wore my father's sweater for 42 days straight;"
p182 [of a 252 page book] Uncle Julian: "Here he said...It was a registration form. On it was my name and the name of a class called `Drawing from Life.' ...
P 193 Alma S: "Every Tuesday I took the subway into the city and attended `Drawing from Life.' It meant sketching the 100% naked people who were hired...I was the youngest person in the class by far. .., I tried to be casual as if I had been drawing naked people for years."

Leo models to leave an imprint of his existence and writes to preserve the memories of his love for Alma - From ReadingGroupGuides.com

2. Was Bruno imaginary? When did the real-life Bruno die? When did Leo say his Bruno died?
P6 Leo: "When we were boys, you were the better writer."
P 6 I didn't know he was still alive and then one day I was walking down East Broadway and I heard his voice. ... His back was to me, he was standing in front of the grocer's asking for the price of some fruit...You're hearing things, ... what is the likelihood... I put my arm out. ... Bruno, I said...his eyes began to fill with tears ... he dropped the fruit."
P 249-50 Alma: "Who is Bruno?' Leo: "Talk about invisible....But who is he? He's the friend I didn't have. He's the greatest character I ever wrote. He's dead. He died on a July day in 1941. And then I realized I had been searching for the wrong person. ... Were you ever in love with a girl named Alma? He tapped me twice on the arm..."
Bruno is the only real person character in Krauss' THOL and Bruno Shultz actually died in 1942, but his family was killed in 1941 as the Nazi's first occupied Slonim. "The Nazis killed pretty much everyone in his village." Shultz was held as a "slave" by a German officer who bragged about how little food kept Bruno alive. Shultz was shot by a rival of his keeper in 1942. p 249 Leo tells Alma Leo died in 1941 Why then 1941 and not 1942? Bruno does nothing that Leo could not have done himself. Poignant: 2 knocks if you are alive, 1 if you are dead. Was it Leo and not Bruno who attempted suicide (p7)?

3. Who was Jacob Marcus? Why was this name used, where did it come from? How did Alma S learn Jacob Marcus' true name? How did Jacob Marcus discover the History of Love and why did he ask Charlotte Singer to translate it?
P12 "He [Leo] sent Alma M a letter into which he copied 11 chapters in tiny handwriting"
P 55 Letter from Jacob Marcus to Charlotte: "I just finished your translation of the poems of Nicanor Parra...I don't know what to say about it, except that it moved me in a way one hopes to be moved each time he begins a book...In your introduction you mentioned in passing a little-known writer, Zvi Litvinoff, who escaped from Poland to Chile in 1941, and whose single published work, written in Spanish, is called The History of Love...would you consider translating it?...Maybe if I tell you that a very long time ago someone once read to me as I was falling asleep a few pages from a book called The History of Love, and all these years later I haven't forgotten that night, or those pages..." Conclusion: Isaac loved Charlotte's translation of Nicanor Parra's poems and learned from Charlotte's translators introduction of the existence of the published version of THOL. Naturally then, he asked her to translate THOL for him.

4. How does Alma M track down the true identity of Jacob Marcus and find Leo?
P109 Alma S to Charlotte: "The girl in the book. What's her last name? ... Mereminski. The next day I [Alma S] started to look for her." P173-5 Alma goes thru bureau's to find Alma. First Mereminski and then her marriage to Moritz, finds Alma M's apartment address and goes there: P176-7 "Can I help you? the doorman asks. ... I'm looking for Mrs. Alma Moritz...She's died five years ago...Have you ever heard of a book called the History of Love?... If you want to talk about books you should talk to the son. Alma's son? Sure, Isaac. ... Isaac Moritz. Famous writer.
P195-6 Alma: "At the library I typed "Isaac Moritz" into the computer. It came up with six books... I took The Remedy off the shelf ... I opened to the first page. `Jacob Marcus stood waiting for his mother at the corner of...' Jacob Marcus was a just a character in a book! The man who had been sending letters to my mother .. was Isaac Moritz. Alma's son." Conclusion: Isaac was famous and didn't want the exposure or to avoid putting pressure on Charlotte to live up to his level of prose in her translation.

5. How did Isaac come to know The History of Love and that the author of THOL was his father?
P12 "At night he [Leo] stayed up writing his book. He sent her [Alma M] a letter into which he copied eleven chapters in tiny handwriting..."
P57 Jacob Marcus says to Charlotte in his first letter: "Maybe if I tell you that a very long time ago someone once read to me as I was falling asleep a few pages from a book called THOL, and that all these years later I have not forgotten that night, or those pages..." Leo would have signed the letters, so Isaac came to know Leo wrote THOL.
p 217 Bernard, in phone call to Alma intercepted by Bird, tells Bird: that Isaac "... found some letters in our mother's drawer... and he read the letters [from Leo to Alma M] and got it into his head that the man who was his real father was the author of a book called THOL. I didn't really believe it until I saw Alma's note..." Isaac knows Leo wrote THOL from the eleven chapters in Alma M's letters and learns of its publication from Charlotte's translation introduction.

6. How did David Singer come to know The History of Love?
P71 "... the original run of THOL (there was a flare of interest following Litvinoff's death, and the book was briefly returned to print with Rosa's introduction)...one copy was destined to change ... more than one life... one of the last printed, [it] sat for longer than the rest in a warehouse ... absorbing the humidity. From there it was sent to a bookstore in Buenos Aires. ... for some years it languished ... a slim volume ... its position on the shelf wasn't exactly prime...it fell victim to a massive clearance, and was trucked off to another warehouse...before it was sent to a small secondhand bookstore not far from the home of the writer Jorge Lis Borges...the owner took her time unpacking the books she'd bought cheaply...she discovered the mildewed copy of THOL...the title caught her eye...and during a slow hour...she red the opening chapter, called the `Age of Silence:'" ... p72 "The first language..."
P74 "That day, in between helping customers, she finished the book...she placed it in the window, a little wistful about having to part with it...The shop owner did not try to push the book on any of her customers. She knew that in the wrong hands such a book could easily be dismissed, or worse, go unread...leaving it in place so that the right reader might discover it. And, that's what happened...a tall young man... came into the shop ... and brought it to the register...She asked where he was from...Israel, he told her, explaining that he had finished his time in the army and was traveling around...in a rented room...the young man...signed his name: David Singer.... Filled with restlessness and longing, he began to read."
P108 David's inscription to Charlotte: "For Charlotte, my Alma. This is the book I'd have written for you if I could write. Love, David. Conclusion: Had David not found THOL and given it to Charlotte - who referred to it in her introduction, which Isaac read, to another translation - Isaac may never have completed his discovery of THOL, written by his father, Leo.

7. Did Isaac know who his father was and if he was alive, and that he wrote The History of Love? By whom, and why, were The History of Love English manuscript put under Leo's pillow and the notes sent to Leo and to Alma S to meet at the zoo? 
P92 "...the note on the [Bruno's] door ... said DO NOT DISTURB> GIFT UNDER YOUR PILLOW. ... I lifted my pillow. It was a large brown envelope... Inside was a stack of printed pages. I began to read. Then I realized they [the words] were my own."
P 119-124 Leo reads THOL manuscript. Because Leo asks for books written by Leo Gursky rather than the THOL title, Leo makes and unsuccessful trip to library. "Am I famous?"
Why: p207 Bird: " ... maybe Mr Goldstein got sick because I'd disappointed him. ... Then I had an idea. If I could do one good thing to help someone and not tell anyone...maybe Mr. Goldstein would get better again and I would be a real lamed vovnik! So I tried to think of someone who needed help and all of a sudden I knew the answer.
P215 Bird: "Now I know who Alma is looking for. I also know that if I am a lamed vovnik I will be able to help her. ....even though I didn't understand everything I was sure I was close to solving the mystery about Alma's father and that if I could solve it I would be doing something helpful, and if I did something helpful in a secret way I might still be a lamed vovnik and every thing would be OK. [with Goldstein?] ... Mom said Dad gave her THOL because he was the one who wrote it. ...how did I find Alma's father whose name was Leopold Gursky and also Zvi Litvinoff and also Mr. Mereminski and also Mr. Moritz?"
mid p 217 Bernard, in phone call to Alma intercepted by Bird, tells Bird: that Isaac "... found some letters in our mother's drawer... and he read the letters [from Leo to Alma M] and got it into his head that the man who was his real father was the author of a book called THOL. I didn't really believe it until I saw Alma's note... [left at Isaac's home] ... Did he think his father's name was Zvi Litvinoff? ... sounded confused ... No, He thought it was Leopold Gursky."
P218 Bird: "Then I looked up at the phone book ... and opened it up to G. ... I saw his name. Gursky, Leopold... I went up to her study and turned on the computer and printed out THOL [not-as-yet completely translated and absent Leo's Obituary]. I put it in a brown envelope and...wrote For Leopold Gursky... and went out the door. I didn't know where Grand Street was, but... I knew I would find it."
P212 "...that it was possible that there had been a brief window of time in which Isaac and I both lived, each aware of the other's existence...I had my foot on the pedal of the trash bin when I saw it...Dear Leopold Gursky...Please meet me ... in front of the entrance to the Central Park Zoo. I think you know who I am. ... I shouted out, I do! Sincerely yours ... Sincerely mine, I thought. Alma. And then and there I knew my time had come. ... So this is how they send the angel. With the name of the girl you always loved."
P219 "Dear Alma...Please meet me...in front of the entrance to the Central Park Zoo. I think you know who I am. Sincerely yours, Leopold Gursky.
Comment: Even though his conclusions were wrong, only Bird knew of the existence of both Alma and Leo, so he must have sent the notes as part of his doing something helpful to help Mr. Goldstein. Leo's imaginary friend must have picked up the manuscript from the lobby and put it under Leo pillow.

8. What did Leo do to reach out to Isaac? To Alma M?
P25 Leo attends Isaac's autograph signing. "We met once Not met, but stood face to face." Leo can only flap wordlessly.
P 85-6: Leo: "Only at the very end did I see her again. I snuck into her room in the hospital and sat with her every day. ... this nurse let me come after hours when there was no chance of my running into anyone. ... I'd given up waiting long ago. The Moment had passed."
P 162-3 "Every time Isaac moved, I mapped out the route between my place and his. ... I used to stand across the street from his school .. Just to catch a glimpse; maybe ... hear the sound of his voice. One day I waited.., but he didn't come out... I went back the next day...they moved to Long Island...a week later a letter arrived from Alma... once a year, I sent her a card. Happy Birthday...I know you watch him...don't ask me how, but I know. ... sometimes I look into his eyes I see you. And I think you are the only one who could answer his questions: I hear your voice like you were next to me"

9. How did the manuscript of The History of Love come into Zvi's possession?
P153 "On his last morning in Poland, after his friend pulled his had down over his eyes and disappeared around the corner, Litvinoff walked back to his room. ... He took out the brown paper package he'd been holding inside his coat. .. In his friend's handwriting was written: To be held for Leopold Gursky until you see him again. Litvinoff slipped it into the pocket of his suitcase." ... he had been granted a visa from Spain. From Spain he would travel to ... Chile."

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 12:36:00 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2011 10:33:48 AM PST
Robert says:
Q 10-16

10. Why did Zvi publish The History of Love? Why in his name? What did this do to Zvi? What did Rosa do when she discovered who had written The History of Love? Did Zvi once have a romantic relationship with Alma M?
P66 Rosa writes: "It wasn't until two months later, Rosa writes, during the first moments of sadness that seemed to slip in through the open window ... that Litvinoff read to me the first pages of the History. They were written in Yiddish. Later, with Rosa's help, Litvinoff would translate them into Spanish. The original Yiddish manuscript, written in longhand, was lost when the Litvinoff's house was flooded while they were away in the mountains.
Why zvi yielded? P183 "In the beginning it was easy. Litvinoff pretended to be just passing time ... One thing he did not do is think to himself: I am going to plagiarize my friend who was murdered by the Nazis. Nor did he think: If she thinks I wrote this, she will love me. He simply copied the first page, which naturally led to copying the second..."
P 68 Rosa insisted: " ... on his first and last trip to New York City in the fall of 1954 - where Rosa insisted they go to show some editors his manuscript - he pretended to get lost..."
P187 His conscience tormented him more and more, until the night before he and Rosa were to be married...Litvinoff got up in a cold sweat and dug up the burden once and for all. From then on, he kept it [Leo's THOL manuscript] in a drawer of his desk ... locked with a key he thought he'd hidden."
P190-1 She [Rosa] never told anyone about the letter addressed to Litvinoff that had arrived a few months after the publication of The History of Love... Slowly the truth dawned on Rosa: something terrible had happened. It was grotesque. ... and she was partly guilty. She remembered the pile of dirty pages in a handwriting she didn't recognize and chose not to ask...she remembered how it had been her who'd insisted that he publish the book...The next day she packed a picnic and ... I almost forgot the strawberries...took out the sheaf of warped, dirty pages that smell of mold...placed them on the floor...on her way out she turned on the tap ... and plugged the drain.
P 110-11 There was something he wished to say. The more time passed, the more he longed to say it, and the more impossible saying it became. Sometimes he would awake in a panic from his dreams. Rosa, he'd shout .. He would feel her hand on his chest and at the sound of her voice ... he would lose his courage, overcome with fear of the consequences ... On nights when he couldn't sleep, Litvinoff would sometimes to to his study and take out his copy of THOL. He'd reread the fourteenth chapter, `The Age of String' so many times that now the binding opened to it automatically."
P 188 to Rosa: "There's something I wanted to tell you. ... I - ... Shhh... don't speak. ... I need to. Don't you see? See what? ... Rosa,...I wanted you to love me. ... And I did love you." [Conclusion: Because she loved Zvi. All part of the history of love]
P 183-4 Zvi and Alma M: "She was one of a group of girls he [Zvi] observed bloom...Alma left an indelible impression ... as had the six or seven other girls whose transformation he'd witnessed ... If he ever envied her being taken, it wasn't any special feeling for Alma, but out of a wish to be singled out and loved alone."

11. What concessions to his conscience did Zvi make for his plagiarism?
P185 Sixteen years later he watched ... another chapter of the book written by Gursky reappeared in his own longhand...word for word, except for the names, all but one of which he changed.
P116-17 Alma S: "Of course she is real. He could change every detail but he couldn't change her [Alma's name].
P183 It wasn't until the third page that Alma's name appeared. He paused. He had already changed a Feingold from Vilna to a ...Would it be so terrible if he switched Alma to Rosa?...But if, when he went to write a capital R where there had been a capital A, Litvinoff's hand stalled, perhaps because he was the only person, aside from it true author, tho have read THOL and know the real Alma."
P189 He also made one change the editor hadn't asked for....He [Zvi] took a fresh sheet of paper out of his desk drawer. At the top of the page he wrote Chapter 19: The Death of Leopold Gursky. Then he copied the page [Leo's self-written obit Zvi had been carrying for years] word for word...into Spanish."

12. How did the manuscript of Words for Everything get into Isaac's home?
How did Words for Everything get into a publication cycle and pre-publication magazine article under Isaac's name as author? Did Isaac plagiarize it? Did Isaac know who his father was? Did Isaac read Words for Everything and know who wrote it? What is the origin of the title of this book?
P11 Alma wrote Leo "When will you learn that there is not a word for everything?" (In the context of their learning English words together.)
Pp 27-33 Leo goes through a sequence of potential titles as he prepares the manuscript to mail to Isaac.
P33 Before I could change my mind again, I rolled it [Words for Everything manuscript] out, laid it on top of the stack, and closed the lid of the box. I found some brown paper and packaged it up. On the front I wrote my son's address, which I knew by heart.
P75-7 Leo: "I don't know what I expected, but I expected something. My fingers shook when I wen to unlock the mailbox....There was nothing ... Two and a half weeks after I put my book in the mail ... I hung up the phone. I'd been in the apartment all day so I decided to go out... When I saw Starbucks, I went in...Then the man turned the page and my heart stopped. It was a photo of Isaac...I wanted him to turn his eyes to me...But. He couldn't. Because the headline said, ISAAC MORITZ, NOVELIST, DEAD at 60."
P 202 Alma: ... "Isaac never came ... so I left a note on his door with my telephone phone number. ... a week and a half later .... There's an obituary for him in the newspaper." [Did Alma S tell Charlotte who Isaac was?] Conclusion: there was about one week (two and a half weeks Leo waited less Alma's week and a half later) that Isaac was at home prior to going to the hospital a week before he died when he could have read Words for Everything.
P 167 [Leo pick's the lock to Isaac's home] "I saw his typewriter. No one had to tell me it was the same as mine. I'd read ... that he'd been writing on the same manual Olympia for almost twenty-five years. A few months later I saw the exact model for sale in a second hand shop... so I bought it."
P208 "Look, shouted Bruno. They wrote about you in a magazine...There, on the only magazine I subscribe to , was my name. ... what a coincidence ... I read a sentence. And that was all I needed to read to know it could be no one other than me. ... In ... the novel of my life...the one I'd started to write after my heart attack and sent, the morning after the art class, to Isaac. ... In block letters across the top of the ... page. Words For Everything ... and underneath: Isaac Moritz.... It said ... the piece ... was part of his last manuscript.
P210-12 Leo conversation with the magazine: "When's it coming out?"... January ... Is it any good? Some people think it is one of his best... but... if my manuscript had been found at Isaac's ... and mistaken for his, didn't that mean he had read it ... or begun to read it? Because if he had, that would change everything. It would mean - ... It was simple: If he'd read my book, he knew the truth. I was his father. He was my son.
"...that it was possible that there had been a brief window of time in which Isaac and I both lived, each aware of the other's existence...
My Conclusion: The manuscript, in the same manual typeface as Isaac's typewriter, was found in Isaac's home after his death and, assuming it was Isaac's work, it was published. I choose to believe, as did Leo, that Isaac "...had read it ... or begun to read it? Because if he had, that would change everything. It would mean -..." and we know from Bernard p217 that Isaac knew that Leo was his father. And, if Isaac read Words for Everything - p 208 "They wrote about you in a magazine...There, on the only magazine I subscribe to , was my name...,"-he would have learned his father was alive after presuming he died in Poland! Isaac died less than two weeks (Above: Leo's 2.5 weeks waiting, less both mail transit time and time for Isaac's obit to appear) after he would have received the manuscript and one of those weeks was in the hospital!

13. What is the significance of the segment describing Leo's picking the lock for the apartment owner?
P25 Conclusion: Finding Isaac's books there; describing to the reader how Leo reacted to Isaac's books
- means of describing Isaac's books and Leo's feelings for them
- provides setting for the autograph signing (above)

14. How did Alma Singer come to be named Alma?
P35 "My mother named me after every girl in a book my father gave her called The History of Love."
P39 Letter, Charlotte to David: "The book you gave me is sitting on my desk, and everyday I learn to read it a little more [Charlotte learning Spanish].
See Q 6 [story of how David Singer came across The History of Love]

15. What was Charlotte's reaction to David's death?
P 45: (18) "My Mother never fell out of love with my father. She's kept her love for him as alive as the summer they first met. In order to do this, she's turned life away." There follows poignant lines from Uncle Julian about capturing a subject in a painting.

16. What was Alma Singer's quest? What was she looking for, what drove her?
P64 Alma re-writes the cover letter to Jacob Marcus in an attempt to interest him in Charlotte
P 141 "I thought you were looking for Jacob Marcus, not this Alma. I am. ... I didn't know how to say that ...I'd started looking for someone who could make my mother happy again, now I was looking for something else, too. About the woman I was named after. And About me."
P 172-3 "...why I was looking for her...that I wasn't sure, that I had started out looking for someone to make my mother happy again, and even though I hadn't given up on finding him yet, along the way I began to look for something else, too, which was connected to the first search, but also different, because it had to do with me."
P181 "That was the end of my search to find someone that would make my mother happy again. ... None of us would be able to win over the memories she had of Dad, memories that soothed her even while they made her sad, because she had made a world out of them she knew how to survive in, even if no one else could."

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 12:37:08 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2011 10:42:56 AM PST
Robert says:
Q 17-

17. What are the chapter/segment titles of The History of Love by Leo included in THOL?
Incomplete:
P57 Untitled THOL chapter under My Mother Used to Read to Me [Alma S] from THOL
P61 Age of Glass
P71-2 The Age of Silence. How people talk with their hands
P106-7 The Birth of Feeling
P 111 The Age of String
P185 Love among Angels: How Angels Sleep; Private Matters; The Arguments Between Angels; Being Alone; and For Better or Worse.
______________________________________________________________________

Unresolved or miscellaneous:
What purpose does Bruno play in the story? If you took away Bruno, what would you have?
What is the role of The Street of Crocodiles and its author Bruno Shultz (real book, real author) in THOL?
P181 Alma: Chapters 1 through 28 sat by my mother's computer...I found ... a crumpled paper that said: Back in Paris, Alberto began to have second thoughts."
p144: I thought maybe Uncle Julian wouldn't be finishing his research on Alberto Giacometti anytime soon... after reading Frances Dog letter.
P
P178: Uncle Julian tells Alma that he, at 25, fell in love with Alberto Giacometti
P177 Uncle Julian tells Alma how controlling her grandfather was and that was why Charlotte, who got the brunt of it as oldest, has refused to tell you and Bird what to do or how to do it.
P45 how to paint a head
P135 a book he had been writing for five years on Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti (10 October 1901 - 11 January 1966)
The validation of Leo's life: P 249-252
Did Leo die at the end? The obit is not confirmation. The History of Love has Leo's obituary at the end. Does Words for Everything have Leo's obit at the end?

What is the significance of this:
P181 Alma: Chapters 1 through 28 sat by my mother's computer...I found ... a crumpled paper that said: Back in Paris, Alberto began to have second thoughts."
p144: I thought maybe Uncle Julian wouldn't be finishing his research on Alberto Giacometti anytime soon... after reading Frances Dog letter.

P177 Uncle Julian tells Alma how controlling her grandfather was and that was why Charlotte, who got the brunt of it as oldest, has refused to tell you and Bird what to do or how to do it.
P178: Uncle Julian tells Alma that he, at 25, fell in love with Alberto Giacometti
P45 how to paint a head
P135 a book he had been writing for five years on Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti (10 October 1901 - 11 January 1966)

How do you react to the title of The History of Love (Krauss')? Sounds like chick-lit?
What alternate title would you suggest?
"The History of Love: The Age of String" see p 111

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 3:07:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2011 10:56:28 AM PST
Robert says:
Q18-20
18. What is the significance of the icons at the beginning of each chapter? What is the association?
Wikipedia: Each character is associated with an icon that appears at the head of each chapter: Leo with a heart; Alma with a compass; Zvi with an open book; and Bird with an ark. These icons may be used as a starting point for defining these characters. For example, it makes sense that Alma be associated with a compass because she spends much of the novel doing research, asking questions and investigating her past and the past of the mysterious book called The History of Love. Finally, the novel includes interesting typography, such as cross-outs (in Alma's journal) and a series of pie graphs of her ancestry, which appear on page 96. The pie graphs and accompanying context illustrate how identity is not an open and shut question or a yes and no proposition.

19. What did you think of the many obituaries?
Remarkable.
Kafka:
P116 Franz Kafka is Dead
He died in a tree from which he couldn't come down...I can't , he finally said with a note of wistfulness... Why? ...because then you will stop asking for me...Children were carried on their fathers' shoulders, sleepy from having been taken to see the man who wrote is books on pieces of bark he tore of the tree from which he refused to come down. ... And they admired those books, and they admired his will and stamina. One by one, families broke off with a goodnight.. Far off, in his perch in the trees, Kafka listened to it all...That night a freezing wind blew in. When the children woke up, they went to the windows and found the world encased in ice. One child, the smallest, shrieked out in delight and her cry tore through the silence and exploded the ice of a giant oak tree. ... They found him frozen on the ground like a bird. ... when they put their ears to the shell of his ears, they could hear themselves.

20. What did you think of the ending? What did you think of the book's title? What Alternate name might have been given THOL?

Title convey chic-lit? What about "The Age of String (see p 111)?

A. Remarkable ending and in line with what Kafka had to say:
http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001062.php
This is a pretty well known quotation, but it bears repetition and thinking about (as with so much Kafka, it's impossible to entirely agree with his point of view, yet once you read it it's impossible to continue to think in the same way).
Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.

Thanks to the participants in the amazon.com THOL bulletin board discussion, to google books for search capabilities
http://books.google.com/books?cd=1&id=hhbdAEsEUA4C&q=Bruno%27s+death#v=onepage&q&f=false

Thanks to Nicole Krauss for an incredible book full of mystery and beautiful prose.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2011 3:28:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2011 3:30:25 PM PDT
Robert, thank you for your indepth editorial of answers to the questions presented here. I just finished listening to THOL and have thought about it all afternoon. It does make me think "Why do I waste my time on frivolous books that are just cutsie?" I have been trying to seek out more meaningful reading material over the last several years. The audio version of THOL was absolutely unbelievably fabulous. I don't usually listen to a book more than once, however, this book will be one that I will keep on my MP3 player so I can enjoy again.
Thank you again for your most enjoyable post on this thread. Vicki

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2011 4:02:34 PM PDT
Robert says:
Thanks, it was a pleasure. I first listened and when I had to do a book group review, I read the print version. One of the few books that a second read was as good as or better than the first. So many "mesmerizing mysteries." She knows how to develop a plot.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2011 5:40:29 PM PDT
Yes, Robert it was very compelling. Do you listen to many audio books? I do. I always research though to make sure I like the narrator. These in THOL were the best!!! Sometimes a narrator can make or break an audio book for me. If I don't like the narator I just read the book. Have you read her other books or her husband's books?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2011 3:14:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2011 3:15:36 PM PDT
Robert says:
@ vicki: Kraus' "Great House" is all right, but I agree with its 3* amazon reader ratings (THOL is 4*). Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is very similar to THOL, and very good. You will like it. Kraus says they do not collaborate, but they certainly have written two remarkably similar, in form, books. Foer's "Everything Is Illuminated" is good. Those are the only two of his books I have read. I listen to my full annual complement of audible.com platinum plan of 24 books and about the same number of Kindle books. I agree about narrators. here is my blog of book recommendations: http://audiobookrecommendations.blogspot.com/ I haven't updated it in quite a while.

Posted on Mar 23, 2011 3:17:41 PM PDT
Robert says:
@viki. Meant to add "Cutting for Stone" and "The Story of Edgar Sawtell." The latter is patterned after Hamlet, so it is a tragedy and long, but beautiful prose.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:39:51 PM PDT
Dear Robert. It has been over a year since you wrote your notes and comments on the History of Love. I have just finished the book and want to thank you for your marvelous insight. I intend to read the book again; but I believe that I will try the audio version first. I've shared all of your comments with our book club and you have greatly enhanced our discussion. Thank you again.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:48:51 PM PDT
Roberta, You will enjoy the audio version. I loved it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:52:31 PM PDT
I hope this isn't a silly question, Vicki; but this is all new to me. Do I get the audio version by going online to Amazon.com

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 7:57:37 PM PDT
Robert says:
Audible.com is owned by Amazon. You can click right thru to audible on the amazon book page. Or, you can go directly to audible.com. There are packages that can get the cost of an audio book to under $10. As a newbie you are entitled to special offers and trials that I cannot see.

Glad to hear your book club found my notes useful. My wife is going to use them for her club this fall. I listened to it as well as read Kindle version - which electronic search greatly facilitated research for citations and facts.

Posted on Apr 29, 2013 12:41:55 PM PDT
Nitmar says:
Dear Robert,
I am so grateful for your analysis of The History of Love. I have not been able to stop thinking about the book, knowing that I had not put all of the various clues together. You have helped me out tremendously! If my book group decides to read and discuss this book, your notes will be invaluable. Thank you, thank you!
Anita

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 29, 2013 4:58:34 PM PDT
Robert says:
A pleasure! I think it is a GREAT Book club book.
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