50. Nicole Krauss

Writing what she knows

Nicole Krauss, the acclaimed author of The History of Love. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Nicole Krauss, the acclaimed author of The History of Love.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nicole Krauss has carved out a niche for herself in the canon of 21st-century literature by weaving Jewish, Israeli and Diaspora identity into the forefront of the American literary scene. An internationally bestselling author, Krauss was twice shortlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize and is the recipient of numerous other accolades.
Her most well-known book, The History of Love, won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and has been translated into more than 35 languages. The New York Times has called Krauss “One of America’s most important novelists.”
Recurring motifs in her novels, poems and short stories are first- and second-generation echoes of the Holocaust, items and identities lost and found, and the Jewish transience of belonging.
Adding to the influence of her published works, Krauss’s close professional relationships with Israeli and Jewish-American authors serve as a bridge between writers throughout the Jewish world.
She has cultivated friendships with the likes of David Grossman and the late Philip Roth, who called her 2017 novel “brilliant,” and for whom she wrote an obituary in The New Yorker the following year. 
Many influences can be sensed in her writing, often bringing to mind the anti-heroes of Isaac Bashevis Singer or the fortitudinous self-awareness of Amoz Oz. However, her poetic, almost metaphysical style pegs her as an intimately original wordsmith.
The apex of the Jewish-Israeli theme in Krauss’s work is her latest novel, Forest Dark, a meditation on the porousness of the self, realized by means of the Tel Aviv Hilton.
The same service done by Jhumpa Lahiri for first-generation Indian-Americans, or by Amy Tan for Chinese-Americans, Krauss does for today’s secular Jews who struggle to navigate the maze of existence while grappling with the complex identity thrust upon them.
And it doesn’t seem like she does this on purpose. “In the end, it isn’t up to the writer to decide how his or her work will be used,” she writes in Forest Dark. As Krauss set out to write her story, she unknowingly became a voice for a new generation of Jews in the Diaspora and Israel alike.