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Forest Dark: A Novel Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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“Strange and beguiling…a mystery that operates on grounds simultaneously literary and existential…metaphysical and emphatically realistic…It’s a perfectly Kafkaesque vision, almost uncanny enough to be sublime.” (Ruth Franklin, Harper’s Magazine)
“Lucid and exhilarating...Elias Canetti once wrote of Kafka that he sought, above all, to preserve his freedom to fail. In this spirit, Krauss, an incisive and creative interpreter of Kafka, allows Nicole and Epstein to regain their own freedom to fail. This particular freedom should never be taken lightly. It’s a great gift not only to her characters, but to her readers.” (Peter Orner, New York Times Book Review (cover feature))
“A triumphant new novel…that suggests a determination to stretch conventional narrative in unconventional directions…Krauss’ prose balances precision and grace…This author is incapable of writing a sentence that does not seem chiseled to perfection…In Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss has once again mastered a light touch in pursuit of weighty themes.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Krauss expertly intertwines musings on theology and the life of Franz Kafka in this beautifully written follow-up to the National Book Award finalist The Great House.” (Buzzfeed)
“Forest Dark finds Krauss at the top of her game. It is blazingly intelligent, elegantly written, and a remarkable achievement.” (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven (The Guardian review))
“Krauss’s elegant, provocative, and mesmerizing novel is her best yet. Rich in profound insights and emotional resonance...Vivid, intelligent, and often humorous, this novel is a fascinating tour de force.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review and boxed))
“One of the bravest and most original writers of her generation… Forest Dark—the best new novel I’ve read this year…Krauss’ intrepid journey into this forest reveals great secrets, involving the tales we tell as we whistle in the dark.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
“Entrancing and mysterious…Krauss reflects with singing emotion and sagacity on Jewish history; war; the ancient, plundered forests of the Middle East; and the paradoxes of being. A resounding look at the enigmas of the self and the persistence of the past.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Magnificent. . . . A richly layered masterpiece; creative, profound, insightful, deeply serious, effortlessly elegant, both human and humane. Krauss is a poet and a philosopher, and this latest work does what only the very best fiction can do—startles, challenges and enlightens the reader, while showing the familiar world anew.” (Financial Times)
“Wildly imaginative, darkly humorous and deeply personal, this novel seems to question the very nature of time and space. Krauss commands our attention, and serious readers will applaud.” (Library Journal (starred review))
From the Back Cover
Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York law firm where he was a partner, he has felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter, who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project—a film about the life of David that is being shot in the desert—with life-changing consequences.
But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history. Leaving her family in Brooklyn, a well-known young novelist arrives at the Tel Aviv Hilton, where she has stayed every year since her birth. Troubled by writer’s block and a failing marriage, she hopes that the hotel can unlock a dimension of reality—and her own perception of life—that has been closed off to her. But when she meets a retired literature professor who proposes a project she can’t turn down, she is drawn into a mystery that alters her life in ways she could never have imagined.
Bursting with life and humor, Forest Dark is a profound, mesmerizing novel of transformation and self-realization—of looking beyond all that is visible toward the infinite.
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"Forest Dark" is not a casual read, or the kind of book you can dip in and out of. Instead it's sort of an examination into the nature of what it means to exist and move through the world as the person you are (or the person you aren't). This isn't a book that is based on traditional narrative structure. There's a lot of philosophical "meandering" (both in first and third person) that provides the main structure of the book - instead of a series of actions and exchanges driving the characters' thoughts, it as if the characters' thoughts and choices and motivations are the main characters and everything else is secondary.
Reading this book is almost like snooping on someone recording stream-of-consciousness and noticing what's happening behind them and trying to piece everything together. I kind of enjoyed that, since I'm so used to opening a book and basically having my hand held the entire time by the author. This book did not provide that experience, and I liked the challenge. Definitely not a "cozy" read that you can just tuck in with and lose yourself inside of.
I'll admit that I did find it sort of dense and frustrating at times, but it forced me to slow down while reading and really *think* about some of the ideas that various characters had. For example, when the character of Rabbi Klausner first spoke, I found myself thinking "wait, WHAT did he say?" and re-reading back over the passage and working out the philosophical implications in my head. When I took the time to really think about different things that were addressed in the novel (a lot of ontological stuff), it stayed in my mind even after I had to close the book and move on to another task. So for me, it was food for thought- but I can see how for others, it might seem like a lot of nonsense. It depends on whether or not this is your cup of tea. It reminds me a lot of when we had to explicate poems in college- basically read them over and over, word by word, line by line, until different interpretations became apparent.
All I can say is that this is a strange novel, and a bit of a challenge to someone who is used to dipping in and out of novels whenever time permits (not possible with this book, at least for me), but ultimately very satisfying. "Forest Dark" is another one of those books that makes me realize that reading can be more than just grabbing the latest novel and breezing though it.
Both wind up at the Tel Aviv Hilton, a strangely ugly building built in the brutalist style which sticks out at an odd angle toward the sea.
There are many interesting reflections here about Israel, about American Jews and their response to the state of Israel, about philanthropy, and about Kafka.,Biblical references abound. The author imagines a situation whereby Kafka did not die in Prague but made his way to a kibbutz, living in quiet anonymity. The book itself becomes increasingly Kafkaesque as it goes on, and more and more detached from reality. One keeps thinking the two principles will meet and it will all be tied up in a neat bow -- but that never happens.
It seems the author seems to be concerned with alternative realities, roads not taken, doors not opened in life. Between the pages is a chilling depiction of a marriage that has lost its way from which all love has drained away. Various different paths toward meaning and fulfillment are suggested -- and then not acted upon.
Ultimately I found the book baffling. It seems to suggest big ideas but they float into the air and disappear. It's well written and interesting -- but at the end of the day elusive, perhaps awaiting a smarter reader than me to decipher.
Most recent customer reviews
I’ve read a lot of books this year, but very few of them I would consider “literature.Read more
I never knew who these people were nor did I care about them. Scholarly utterances are no substitute for a woeful lack of plot.