This book is all about words – words written, words unwritten, words spoken, words unspoken, words imagined, words deleted, words carried, words discarded, words believed, words treasured. And why wouldn’t it be? At the heart of this book, is the book ‘The History of Love’ and its author, and his many intended and unintended recipients.
Does that make the book complex? Oh no, no; it makes it magical. Magic, as I see, is a beautiful truth suddenly broken to us. And in Krauss’ tale, she does it many times over.
Leopold Gursky is a recluse 80-years old Jewish Man of Polish origin, presently residing in America in a quiet neighbourhood whose silence is splintered by his only (and eccentric) childhood friend, Bruno. Having lost in love 60 years ago, he has survived most of his life drinking the fleeting images of his son, Isaac (a famous writer), from afar. His only wish now – his son reads the manuscript his scrawny fingers have jabbed on the typewriter in the past few years post a heart attack. In the same country but another world, lives the curious and awkward 14-year old Alma Singer who is trying hard to reignite the love her mother has relinquished after losing her husband to cancer. When a letter arrives one day from a certain Mr. Jacob Marcus, requesting her translator mother to translate ‘The History of Love’ from Spanish to English for a princely sum, Alma’s hopes are upped – she might have found a match for her mamma, after all.
As I read page after page, the sentiments seeped into the words became clearer – like some kind of a haze that one slowly peels off a window, one brush at a time. And the scenery that emerged as a result, was a gossamer of young dreams and old lessons, assimilating into each other to keep the magic called love, alive. None of the characters hurried; because love doesn’t come easy, it makes us wait and pass numerous tests. It is the bird that flutters on many windows but settles on that one which shelters it across all seasons. And this love is visible, in all its pulsating vigour and dogged longevity, in Krauss’ tale. The exchanges between friends, the response to tragedy, the adrenaline rush to fight impersonation, the willingness to sacrifice, the aspiration to pull off the unthinkable – the delightful narrative arc contained these themes with a mystery angle on one side and a biblio-slant on the other. And this approach imparted such a refreshing suppleness to the story that when the finale finally played out, I was transported to the venue and was made to feel completely at home.
From unearthing little truths about the past to embracing the extrapolations into future, this book presents love as an emotion that can outlive any person as long as the person, while living, never left its territory, and that includes the times he/ she chose to wear it over his/ her sleeves or hide it underneath.
[Image courtesy notey.com]