Nicole Krauss: Reading the Russians, and Other Life Goals
The Author of Forest Dark, and the Books in Her Life
Nicole Krauss’s Forest Dark is available tomorrow from Harper.
What was the first book you fell in love with?
First, first? Little Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown. Because it had everything I wanted back then: wildness and freedom outside the door of a cozy home, solitude and deep attachment, the idea of multiple worlds lived on different scales, the ache of beauty, the wideness of natural world, and a house in a warm wooden tree.
Name a classic you feel guilty about never having read?
I don’t feel guilty about what I haven’t read, just as I don’t feel guilty about the lives I haven’t lived—I might still get to them. I’ve read very few of the great Russian novels. But I think of them, and immediately I imagine some Scandinavian summer of unending days, in view of the Baltic, when I will finally get to them and understand it all.
What’s the book you reread the most?
Books of poems, mostly: by Zbigniew Herbert, Rilke, Brodsky, Amichai, Montale, Auden, Bishop, Cavafy, Szymborska. I read and reread their collections often when I was younger, and was unconsciously laying some foundation of how to see and think, and what to do with feeling. Consciously I thought I was learning how to become a poet. But then I took a wrong turn, and ended up in the land of the loose and baggy monster, as Henry James once called the novel.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I can’t say I’ve ever had that feeling, no. I’ve been knocked silly with admiration, and sometimes envy, or longing to have a mind like that, to be able to natively see the world like that, and to know exactly what to make out of it. But the thought of having wished I’d written someone else’s book is foreign to me. It’s like longing to have someone else’s heart in your body, or brain in your skull, or to accept a transplant of the soul.
What’s the new book you’re most looking forward to?
I’m halfway through the galley of László Krasznahorkai’s book, The World Goes On, and every page is a shock to the system—one’s own system, and, seemingly, the systems of the world. To the fixed ways one is taught to see things, and assign value, and to make connections and order. What he is doing is so extraordinary that I regularly find myself in tears while reading on the subway, and missing the known stations.