Forest Dark Hardcover – 24 Aug 2017
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This dazzling dual-narrative novel is a fascinating meditation on fiction itself . Forest Dark finds Krauss at the top of her game. It is blazingly intelligent, elegantly written and a remarkable achievement (Emily St John Mandel Guardian)
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 . to get lost in Forest Dark is to wonder. It is a pleasure and a privilege to read (Francesca Segal Financial Times)
A meditation on loss and transformation and an investigation of the mysteries of art and literature and family (Erica Wagner Observer)
Krauss writes with lyricism and mystery, but isn't above the odd cutting observational detail (Susie Rushton Vogue, 'Summer Reading')
Krauss is indeed a highly serious writer and also a very brilliant one . The prose is flawless ... Forest Dark is accomplished, generous and unabashedly serious (Cressida Connolly Literary Review)
A brilliant novel. I am full of admiration (Philip Roth)
Forest Dark shares much in common with Philip Roth's writing. Philosophical and intellectual, it explores identity, culture and the connections between the individual and history (Hannah Beckerman Sunday Express)
Krauss's elegant, provocative, and mesmerising novel is her best yet. Rich in profound insights and emotional resonance, it follows two characters on their paths to self-realisation . Nicole's conversations with Friedman and Epstein's with Klausner about God and the creation of the world are bracingly intellectual and metaphysical. Vivid, intelligent, and often humorous, this novel is a fascinating tour de force (Publishers Weekly)
This is a complex and rewarding novel that will linger long after you've reached the final page (Stylist)
She gives us a deft and mesmerising portrait of female midlife crisis and the desire to ground one's self in the world . impossible to put down (Sarah Hughes, Independent)
Nicole Krauss is always in control of the flow of ideas and allusions even as she evokes her two protagonists' increasingly feeble control over their own minds and sense of themselves. It is a remarkable accomplishment (Natasha Lehrer, Times Literary Supplement)
From the internationally bestselling, double Orange Prize-shortlisted author Nicole Krauss comes this ambitious novel of astonishing precision and dexterity ... Psychology, theological history, metaphysics and Kafka collide in this beautiful, inventive and intellectual work of fiction that deserves literary-prize recognition (Attitude Magazine)
She is evidently a novelist to be taken seriously . a lot of intelligence and writing has gone into this novel' (Yorkshire Post)
Her magnificent fourth novel, Forest Dark, a gorgeously written, effortlessly artful imitation of life . One thing is certain, she has not played it safe: Forest Dark is a cerebral novel in which she takes breathtaking risks, questioning received ideas about faith and identity, featuring Freud and, most vividly, Franz Kafka (Herald)
Forest Dark is the sort of intelligent, serious novel seldom written nowadays. Those shards of gleaming insight are well worth gathering up (The Times)
Krauss's prose is stately, patient and watchful (Daily Telegraph)
She writes with true emotional acuity and tenderness (Irish Times 2017-09-02)
Crystal clear. A sharp provocative and compelling piece of writing that was worth the wait (Big Issue)
From the bestselling, twice Orange Prize-shortlisted, National Book Award-nominated author comes a vibrant tale of transformation: of a man in his later years and a woman novelist, each drawn to the Levant on a journey of self-discoverySee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The novel tells two stories in alternate chapters with, at first glance, little to link them. However, both main characters are having a crisis of identity and purpose. Jules Epstein has recently lost both his parents, has divorced his wife of thirty-five years, and has retired. His children are grown and self-sufficient and, for the first time in decades, Jules finds himself alone and with time on his hands. Having given away most of his possessions, his thoughts have turned away from the material to the spiritual, to his legacy, to - where his thinking has led him - what really matters.
Nicole has crises of her own - a bad case of writer's block and a marriage that's failing. In her description of a marriage falling apart, it's hard not to imagine Krauss is writing autobiographically: she describes a situation where the only thing keeping Nicole and her husband together is their shared love for their two sons, and her prose seems particularly heartfelt and poignant while she does.
So for different - and oddly similar - reasons, our protagonists travel to Israel, both initially staying at The Hilton Hotel, Tel Aviv. Though the two never meet, there are just enough coincidences and echos to unite the stories into a narrative whole. Jules is befriended by a charismatic Rabbi who tries to convince him that he's a direct descendant of King David (possibly because he wants Jules to give him some money, though this is never made clear, and I may be doing him a disservice) and Jules eventually decides that he wants to have a forest planted in memory of his parents. He then disappears into the desert, the only "clue" left behind being his abandoned monogrammed briefcase. Nicole is contacted by Eliezer Friedman, emeritus professor of literature, who also may or may not be involved with Mossad, with a project involving the legacy of Franz Kafka. Friedman tells Nicole that Kafka didn't die of tuberculosis in Prague in 1924, as the official story would have us believe, but emigrated to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine, where the warm, dry air effected a cure. Kafka then lived in obscurity, tending gardens - with skill he hadn't previously known he possessed, and which became a vocation - and moved frequently to avoid exposure. Via an admittedly unlikely route, Nicole is taken to a house in the desert, supposedly Kafka's final home, and is left there with a suitcase which may or may not contain some of Kafka's unpublished and unfinished writings. Her task is to complete a play, but she falls ill and not only doesn't begin, but she doesn't open the suitcase either. When she recovers, she leaves both house and suitcase, wanders in the desert until she finds a road, flags down a passing car and returns to her family.
And that's the "plot", such as it is. So much is left hanging, unresolved, unanswered and, I suspect, this is where the main problem lies for my fellow reviewers. To them - and to you, dear reader - I would say that in this regard, this novel mirrors real life far better than most. Most of us, unfortunately but inevitably, will pass through this vale of tears with unanswered or unasked questions, wondering what would have happened if we'd said or done something differently. That's life, I'm afraid. But if you want a story with a satisfying conclusion, with all loose ends tied up, then this book isn't for you.
However, if you like novels which challenge your preconceptions and make you think deeply, then add Forest Dark to your reading list. Two weeks after finishing it, it's still haunting me and I have re-read parts of it more than once. The prose is dense, beautifully written, intellectually rigorous and demands the reader's complete attention. Even then, it's often difficult to distinguish between straightforward narrative and allegory, description and metaphor. I allowed myself to be swept away with the gorgeous prose, taking what I could understand and using my imagination for the rest, and I found the experience beguiling and almost hypnotic.
A knowledge of, or an affinity for, Judaism and Israel is required to even try and make sense of some of the passages. Krauss is aware of her status as a Jewish novelist, and the responsibilities and expectations that come with it. She describes how Nicole is constantly told, on her visits to Israel, that "we" are very proud of her, and a Holocaust survivor, blue tattoo still visible on her arm, tells Nicole that reading her books is "like spitting on Hitler's grave" (even though, as Krauss / Nicole points out, he didn't have one). How a Jewish novelist copes with this weight of history, I can't begin to imagine, but it must weigh heavy. Making our parents proud is more than enough for most of us, never mind an entire people.
Through the story of Kafka, Krauss explores Nicole's (and, therefore, her own) identity as a novelist. To whom does a writer, and his / her work, belong? When Nicole asks professor Friedman the question regarding hers, his reply is blunt and unequivocal: "To the Jews." Kafka's unpublished writings, for the purposes of the novel, are the subject of a lawsuit that has been in progress for decades between The National Library of Israel and the daughter of Kafka's executor's lover, who has inherited them and is extremely possessive. Poor old Kafka, probably spinning in his grave over this unedifying spectacle, wanted them burned; but his wishes, inevitably, are of no interest to anyone.
So we have two characters linked by Judaism, an ambiguous relationship with the state of Israel, and both at a point of crisis in their lives. The author's examination of their thoughts, feelings and motivations could, in the hands of a lesser writer, have become a self-indulgent mess but, in my opinion anyway, Krauss has stayed on the right side of that line - albeit only just, in places - and has given us a moving exploration of loss, of belonging, and of identity.
And any writer who can produce a sentence of such elegance and fundamental truth as "He probed tenderly and discovered, as one discovers with all absences, that the emptiness was far larger than what had once filled its place." will get five stars from me. I accept that this is a "marmite" book, but those who love it will really love it, and I really loved it.
There are two stories in one book and I tried very hard to find the connection between the two. That’s when I questioned my intelligence. Eventually, I realised that the connection might be two people going through a surreal time in their lives. In a way both lost and yet somehow finding themselves.
Epstein is the one story. He travels from New York to Israel and I think he does vanish. I lost that plot somewhere in the stream of consciousness writing because it felt like I was reading two books at a time. The story of how Epstein got lost on its own could be a good one.
Then the other story in the book is based on an author who also goes to Israel. This journey is to find a way to unblock her writer's block. She bases her story on Kafka and many different streams of consciousness tangents that are quite inviting at times, serious at times, and very surreal at times which does create some humour.
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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Most recent customer reviews
Forest Dark: two halve novels
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Together they are a hole
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