For­est Dark

Qantas - - IQ -

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.

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