Nicole Krauss | Bloomsbury | $25
The first novel in seven years from the much-lauded and awarded American author tackles the question, “What does it all mean?” Jules Epstein has retired, divorced his wife and is in the process of shedding his millions. Drawn back to Israel, land of his birth, Jules is finessed into financing a biopic about King David (of David and Goliath fame) then disappears in the desert. At the same time, our narrator, Nicole the New York novelist, is hitting her head against writer’s block and watching her marriage disintegrate. Abandoning her family, she checks in to the Hilton Tel Aviv, where a random encounter leads to a job documenting the later years of novelist Franz Kafka – who, the rumour goes, didn’t die in 1924 but instead took a new identity in Israel. This job also involves visiting the desert. Both characters are either undergoing metamorphosis or fading away; it’s hard to tell. Gripped by what Kafka and Freud tagged
unheimlich – a debilitating combo of ennui and anxiety – their paths to self-awareness are not straightforward. In her engrossing novel, Nicole Krauss muses on the big issues around religion, philosophy and the infinite beyond. On a more earthly plane, she explores the difficulties faced when American and Israeli-Jewish cultures collide.