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Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss. Book Review

August 13, 2017

Forest Dark

After the death of his parents, Jules Epstein leaves for the Hilton in TelAviv and, after renting a rundown flat, appears to vanish. A strange thing to happen considering his conspicuousness in New York society. Meanwhile a novelist with writer’s block leaves for the same hotel, where she is contacted by a man claiming to be a professor of literature, who wants her to become involved in a project on Kafka. This is where her life begins to take on something akin to one of Kafka’s metaphysical narratives.

Forest Dark is a read you need to set aside to become one with. It is a novel where real life appears to have created a platform from which a writer’s imagination has taken hold and made the mundane intriguing.

The novelist’s role feels more of a voyeur, than a participant and not a character which the reader can become too passionate about. This is interesting because it is Epstein who initially feels more distant, particularly because, as a reader, you’re trying to fathom out his strange behavior in wanting to shed his belongings and wealth. He is also written in the third person. The novelist on the other hand is written in the first person, which allows you to enjoy a privileged view into her life as she progresses through her day with her family in America. But as the book goes on, Epstein begins to ender himself to you as his life becomes more embedded in his journey of getting in touch with his heritage. He is an awkward man, but this awkwardness and tentative forays into the origins of his culture are often humorous and poignant at the same time.

The sections involving the novelist have the feel of W G Sebald’s style of writing, as the fictional world begins to bleed into the real one of Kafka’s biography and the author’s life as she becomes involved in some of Kafka’s unpublished work. It is material that has found its way into the hands of an elderly lady, who is in a battle with the state of Israel as to whether such important documents should belong solely to the private individual; an event which actually happened. This part of the writing is interesting but seems to slow the pace of the novel and temporarily shift it off track, making the plot at times difficult to keep a hold of. But once you get used to these meanderings the result is a book to keep a reader absorbed and puzzling over life, the turns it can take and the transformations in people as a result of them.

Forest Dark was courtesy of Bloomsbury via NetGalley.

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From → Book Review, Literary

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