The Atlantic

Nicole Krauss on Fame, Loss, and Writing About Holocaust Survivors

The National Book Award–nominated author discusses her books The History of Love and Great House

A few years ago, after her novel The History of Love became an international bestseller, Nicole Krauss reflected on her unexpected fame: “Something about the feeling of writing seemed to change for me once the book was published. I felt, a bit, as if I’d lost something hard to put my finger on, something personal and natural that I'd loved about writing.”

Today, Krauss is more accustomed to sharing her inner world with the public. Her newest book, Great House, has been nominated for a National Book Award, and early reviews have been packed with praise. “It is a high-wire performance,” wrote fellow author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in a glowing New York Times book review earlier this week, “only the wire has been replaced by an exposed nerve, and you hold your breath, and she does not fall.”

Though the novel itself is currently in the spotlight, its characters are intensely private people. Many of them, like Krauss herself, are writers. And in the course of the novel, many of them end up sitting at the same enormous desk. When we first encounter this piece of furniture, it belongs to a Chilean revolutionary poet. Later, we see it in the lonely apartment of a divorced New York writer and in the London attic of an elderly German-Jewish refugee.

For most of the novel, it’s unclear what the desk represents or whether the book's far-flung characters will ever meet. But Krauss has a unique way of assembling novels—baroque, complex, and with a stunning tidiness that isn’t clear until the very last page. All the parts do fit together in the end.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readScience
Ad Astra Is a Starry Epic With an Intimately Human Message
James Gray’s new film, starring Brad Pitt, is a quiet, character-driven drama disguised as a grand adventure through the cosmos.
The Atlantic4 min readScience
‘This Is Clearly Coming From Outside the Solar System’
The second known visitor to our cosmic neighborhood from another star is making quite an entrance.
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics Daily: Pet Issues
Political pets can be tied up in complicated ways with public perception of the politician. Plus: Meet the Bernie bros turned Liz lads.