{KINDLE} ⚡ Forest Dark Ö eBook or E-pub free

I ve read all three of Nicole Krauss previous novels and one thing they all have in common is the writer is well concealed behind all the formal artistry In this new novel of hers there s a character called Nicole speaking in the first person with an intelligence at the height of its powers So the first exciting thing about this was the feeling of intimacy with which Krauss seems to speak her mind There are two narratives here The writer Nicole is struggling to write a new novel and is abou I ve read all three of Nicole Krauss previous novels and one thing they all have in common is the writer is well concealed behind all the formal artistry In this new novel of hers there s a character called Nicole speaking in the first person with an intelligence at the height of its powers So the first exciting thing about this was the feeling of intimacy with which Krauss seems to speak her mind There are two narratives here The writer Nicole is struggling to write a new novel and is about to split with her husband the parallel narrative, also about a lost character who runs away to Israel, is perhaps the story the writer is struggling to bring into existence, though they never once obviously connect at any point Both characters are undergoing break downs both struggling with the form their lives have taken Both trying to reconnect with a purer self within Form itself is one of the themes of this novel As is the idea of the double lives we all live In this sense the Nicole of the narrative is both Nicole Krauss and not Nicole Krauss Kafka too will get to lead a double life in this novel Krauss in this book focuses on the unlived double life we all sense we ve forgone for one reason or another.Both Epstein and Nicole meet mysterious strangers who lead them into what might almost be called alternate realities Nicole is told an extraordinary story about Kafka That he staged his death in 1924 and lived out a kind of afterlife in Israel Eventually she will be in possession of a suitcase of his lost papers Epstein is told he is a descendent of King David Both narratives build to fabulous denouements I especially enjoyed Nicole s epiphany There were shades of Fellini s brilliant 8 in the Nicole narrative, the quest to find a new form of inspiration in the annals of memory And there was some fabulous absurd humour in the Epstein narrative It s not difficult to follow the various threads of this novel but it s hard to work out what Krauss intended to convey as a whole The big picture, how the two narratives related to each other, left me scratching my head Both narratives could probably stand alone as novellas without losing much, if any, significance I didn t feel one was feeding the other with vitality or a reciprocal deeper understanding At times it felt like she was sloughing all the artifice involved in writing a novel, opening a window directly onto the mind s struggle to compose narrative perhaps exemplified by the sense that the coalescing of two disparate narratives felt forced and flimsy It s perhaps an act of mischief on Krauss part that she structures the novel as if in subordination to convention s laws of order which both Nicole and Epstein are eager to escape from but that this structure seemslike a smoking mirror than robust intricate engineering In a nutshell, it starts really well, shows some signs of huff and puff towards the middle and winds up brilliantly It feels like a laboured novel rather than an inspired one Perhaps cathartic in that she is breaking with her reputation, moving onto new ground, which I found exciting Don t expect another History of Love There s no whimsy, no attempt to charm the pants off the reader in this novel It still fascinates me who most influenced who in her marriage with Jonathan Safran Foer the similarity in tone and subject of History of Love and Extremely Loud is too uncanny to be coincidence I have a hunch he influenced herexcept she bettered him at his own game which must have been galling Personally I ve always founddepth in Nicole s books And this was the case again in their post divorce books Forest Dark for me ispoetic and honest and courageous than Here I Am Last month I was finally introduced to the writing of Nicole Krauss Craving Jewish themed books to read over the holidays, I had selected her National Book Award finalist Great House and neither the subject matter nor the writing disappointed Shortly after completing this work starring a desk, I starting seeing reviews for Krauss new book Forest Dark Seeing that it is similar in format and that it takes place in Israel, I decided to make reading Krauss latest work before the end of the year Last month I was finally introduced to the writing of Nicole Krauss Craving Jewish themed books to read over the holidays, I had selected her National Book Award finalist Great House and neither the subject matter nor the writing disappointed Shortly after completing this work starring a desk, I starting seeing reviews for Krauss new book Forest Dark Seeing that it is similar in format and that it takes place in Israel, I decided to make reading Krauss latest work before the end of the year a priority of mine As with her previous book, Krauss has spun a gem with Forest Dark that left me awed.Recently I read the work of Clarice Lispector who has been called by many the greatest Jewish writer since Franz Kafka While Lispector s work was powerful and existential, it did not leave me wowed Krauss , who has noted that she has been influenced by Kafka and features him greatly in her work, has left me wowed on nowthan one occasion In Forest Dark an aging Jewish philanthropist named Jules Epstein has been reeling from the death of his parents and from the divorce of his wife of over thirty years As a coping mechanism Epstein decides to sell the majority of his prized material possessions as a means of financing endowments in his parents names in both Israel and New York Yet, the spiritual is not enough for Epstein, who subconsciously craves happiness on a spiritual level Upon meeting the kabbalist rabbi Menachem Klausner, Epstein finds himself on a plane to Israel, on a voyage meant to bring closure to the depression that has permeated his life.Meanwhile, a writer grappling with a messy divorce also finds herself on an El Al flight to Israel in hopes of rekindling her novel writing magic at the Tel Aviv Hilton The writer is meant to be Krauss herself who recently divorced from her husband, the writer Jonathan Safran Foer Foer has written books that mirror Krauss but since their real life divorce, their writing has deviated Fictionally, Krauss reveals biographical information about her family vacations to Israel as a child, her awe and appreciation of Kafka, and her deep, inherent love for her children In the chapters featuring the writer, it was hard for me to separate fact from fiction as the writer finds herself on a mission to recover Kafka s lost writings in hopes of starting her own next novel Israeli myth says that Kafka is not buried in a Prague cemetery but was smuggled out and lived the last two decades of his life in the Jewish state An older cousin named Effie tipped off a friend who is a former Hebrew University professor to meet with the writer, as he chooses her to be Kafka s torch bearer This shared love of Kafka leads the writer on a spiritual journey of her own through the Israeli countryside.Krauss alternates her chapters to feature either Epstein or the writer While their stories never intersect, it is obvious that they are on similar spiritual journeys to find themselves Krauss use of prose is so deep that it borders on Kafkaesque language At the surface, the plot features an aging philanthropist named Epstein and an anonymous writer, but their stories are much deeper than how to move on from a divorce Epstein is left to grapple with how to honor the memory of his parents and this internal struggle ends up including new found information that the Epstein family is actually part of a direct descent from King David Whether Epstein memorializes his parents with a lasting legacy or aphysical reminder becomes a major theme of the novel The novelist is also left to decide whether Kafka s legacy or being a good mother to her children isimportant to her It becomes apparent that Krauss may still be battling this issue in real life, but, thankfully, she got over her writing block enough to write this existential novel The writer s place preserving Kafka s writing ends up being the novel s other major theme I was left on edge hoping that the two stories would meet, but, while the two protagonists waged similar spiritual battles, they were never meant to encounter one another on the physical plane.Whether Nicole Krauss is the greatest Jewish author since Kafka is up for debate Her work is deeply Jewish and engages readers in issues that continue to be relevant to Jews in the 21st century She is clearly well versed in Kafka and his history and quotes him in her writing Her prose does approach Kafkaesque status, especially as she has her protagonists engage in their own spiritual gilgul, loosely translated as metamorphosis Krauss work has left me awed for the second time, and has me desiring to tackle to difficult prose of Kafka Yet, Krauss prose is exquisite in its own right, including discussions of the great Kafka Perhaps after reading Nicole Krauss, Franz Kafka will not seem as difficult as previously thought.4.5 sparkling stars Giving up after 100 pages I have definitely enjoyed Krauss s other novels but I just did not connect with either of the two characters in the dual story lines Just too much of an effort to wade through. If I were a professional book reviewer which I m not I might well have given Forest Dark five stars After all, it s cerebral, intelligently written, thought provoking, and brilliantly complex.But I am simply a reader who likes to capture my reading experience and share my thoughts with others And for me, this book was a thing to be admired rather than loved.There are two parallel stories One is the story of Jules Epstein, who goes missing in Israel after going through a sort of metamorphosis If I were a professional book reviewer which I m not I might well have given Forest Dark five stars After all, it s cerebral, intelligently written, thought provoking, and brilliantly complex.But I am simply a reader who likes to capture my reading experience and share my thoughts with others And for me, this book was a thing to be admired rather than loved.There are two parallel stories One is the story of Jules Epstein, who goes missing in Israel after going through a sort of metamorphosis where he sheds much of his wealth In the second thread, a novelist who just happens to be named Nicole also heads to Israel, where she, too metaphorically and physically disappears, at least temporarily While there, her interest is peaked by some unsettling news about Franz Kafka, who no coincidence famously wrote The Metamorphosis The Metamorphosis is, of course, about transformation and both Epstein and Nicole are in the process of becoming transformed This is, at its core, a novel about the idea of self invention as one sheds one s society imposed skin It also has some fascinating thoughts on the endurance and need of literature, in particular, Jewish literature Lastly, it s hard to ignore the uncanny resemblances between the character Nicole and the author herself the ruminations on a crumbling marriage in her case, to Jonathan Safran Foer.So why did I merely admire and not love the book Perhaps because, for me, it was too cerebral at the expense of emotional Too often, I felt as if I were reading a contemplative essay on the outside looking in rather than enveloped by the story For those who are most attracted to elegant novels that make you think and challenge your perceptions on true identities, by all means, give this a try For others, though, who are also seekingof an emotional immersion, be prepared to lower your expectations In any event, it s well worth the read The Empty SpaceI read this book eagerly and with absorption my reactions ranged from admiration to love All the same, I could easily describe it in such a way that no one would buy it a first person narrative by an author unable to overcome her writer s block, interleaved with the story of a wealthy lawyer who gradually withdraws from normal life The two stories are not even connected, for heaven s sake In the hands of a lesser writer, this could spell disaster But Krauss is not a lesser w The Empty SpaceI read this book eagerly and with absorption my reactions ranged from admiration to love All the same, I could easily describe it in such a way that no one would buy it a first person narrative by an author unable to overcome her writer s block, interleaved with the story of a wealthy lawyer who gradually withdraws from normal life The two stories are not even connected, for heaven s sake In the hands of a lesser writer, this could spell disaster But Krauss is not a lesser writer she remains her magnificent self I found this one of the most stimulating new novels I have read since, well, Krauss s own Great House I ll try to explain why.It s a small point, but I enjoyed the setting The one time I worked in Israel, I stayed in the next hotel down the beach from the block like Tel Aviv Hilton, which plays a significant part in both stories a connection of a kind, I suppose I have visited the hill town of Safed S fat , cradle of Jewish mysticism I have at least seen the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert But even without those personal associations, I would have appreciated Krauss s knack of finding a special place to enclose a special purpose Her Israel, without ever being touristic, is as real as her New York City, especially in terms of the reality of the minor characters who inhabit each locale.As with minor characters, so with major ones When I finished the first chapter, about the disappearance of the billionaire Jules Epstein, I posted a reading progress note calling this a masterpiece To be honest, I never experienced quite this high again, but there was nothing to contradict it either the initial charge remained in place until the end This chapter is one of the best pieces of character exposition I have ever read Not just because Krauss so beautifully establishes the facts about Epstein, his former marriage, his family, his fabulous purchases on the art market and subsequent sales, but because she takes us deep into his mind and,importantly, his soul.For that is the distinguishing feature of this,than any of the other three Krauss novels that I have read All the characters are defined by their spiritual concerns Of course, these are specifically Jewish concerns, expressed in terms of rabbinic philosophy, and I am not a Jew But this doesn t matter, for the questions she raises about existence are questions that belong to all of us, whatever our religious or philosophical context One of Krauss s strengths is that she so often poses her questions through lively anecdotes, like the one told by Israeli rabbi who gate crashes a dinner held by New York Jewish leaders to open a dialogue with Mahmoud Abbas Another strength is that she never quite answers them, but leaves the questions to resonate with both the characters and the reader.The title comes from Dante s Inferno, which in the Longfellow translation begins like this Midway upon the journey of our lifeI found myself within a forest dark,For the straightforward pathway had been lost Krauss will have literal forests later on in the novel, but at the beginning they are mostly a metaphor for some of the big questions that she poses Why are we here and what have we lost What is our responsibility to life What is the purpose of religion Her thinking is not always easy to follow, but it impresses me nonetheless Just as religion evolved as a way to contemplate and live before the unknowable, so now we have converted to the opposite practice, to which we are no less devoted the practice of knowing everything, and believing that knowledge is concrete, and always arrived at through the faculties of the intellect TheDescartes talks about following a straight line out of the forest, theappealing it sounds to me to get lost in that forest, where we once lived in wonder, and understood it to be a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of being and the world.Krauss avoids the easy answers and tidy endings, as I said, but the novel has an impressive consistency, and the forest darkness does not last for ever Here is Epstein checking into a run down studio apartment on the waterfront in Jaffa Epstein, new again to everything new to the blazing white light off the waves, to the crying of the muezzin at dawn, new to the loss of appetite, to the body lightening, to a release from order, to the departing shore of the rational, new again to miracles, to poetry took an apartment where he would never have lived in a thousand years, had he been living a thousand years, which, new again most of all to himself, he might have been.Finally, I come to that elephant in the room the potential dead weight of a self obsessed writer gazing into her navel instead of just telling a story Yes, I recognize this, and there were times when my patience wore thin, for example when she has people claim that her novels belong to world Jewish literature rather than the unnamed author herself But there was also a striking personal honesty here, as she examines her ten year marriage and its imminent collapse In these sections, Nicole Krauss is not the sage philosopher cloaking herself in big ideas, but a hurting woman puzzled at how the great love between her and her husband could have turned to cold politeness The theme of emptiness and separation comes up again and again, and always it is painful but she discovers that it is not always negative As the gate crashing rabbi tells Epstein God created Eve out of Adam s rib Why Because first an empty space needed to be made in Adam to make room for the experience of another Did you know that the meaning of Chava Eve, in Hebrew is experience There is a chapter called Lech lecha, which are the Hebrew words in which God commands Abram to go to the land of Canaan and become the founder of the Jewish people But Lech lecha was never really about moving from the land of his birth over the river to the unknown land of Canaan To read it like that is to miss the point, I think, since what God was demanding was so much harder, was very nearly impossible for Abram to go out of himself so that he might make space for what God intended him to be.When one knows that Krauss in fact separated from her husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, shortly before writing this novel, and later began a relationship with an Israeli writer, suddenly all this Biblical exegesis becomes very personal indeed My Top Ten list this year is selected from a smaller than usual pool I really only started reading again in May, and even then deliberately kept new books to under 50% of my total In compiling the list, I also did not exactly follow my original star ratings, but rather the takeaway value after time has passed In particular, there are two books, Lincoln in the Bardo and Go, Went, Gone to which I gave only 4 stars, but which I recognize as important books, withstaying power than many that I enjoyedat the time, but have since forgotten.For some reason, three of the ten books Forest Dark, A Horse Walks into a Bar, and Three Floors Up are by Jewish authors, set in Israel To those, I would add a fourthJudasby Amos Oz, read at the same time and of similar quality, but actually published at the end of 2016.The ten titles below are in descending order i.e with The Essex Serpent being my favorite The links are to my reviews 1The Essex Serpentby Sarah Perry 2Autumnby Ali Smith 3Forest Darkby Nicole Krauss 4The Heart s Invisible Furiesby John Boyne 5Reservoir 13by Jon McGregor 6A Horse Walks into a Barby David Grossman 7Exit Westby Moshin Hamid 8Three Floors Upby Eshkol Nevo 9Lincoln in the Bardoby George Saunders10Go, Went, Goneby Jenny ErpenbeckAnd half that number again that didn t quite make it, in alphabetical order by authors 11Souvenirs dormantsby Patrick Modiano12All We Shall Knowby Donal Ryan13Improvementby Joan Silber14Anything Is Possibleby Elizabeth Strout15Rose Poeby Jack Todd No young child naturally believes that reality is firm.Experiencing a small tear in the fabric of reality can keep the door of doubt ajar.From my late teens to early twenties, I earnestly sought a mystical, personal relationship with God I cast my net narrowly the Anglican church but deeply, devoting hours to bible study, prayer, services, singing, and so on Sometimes I felt a ripple in the waters around me, but whatever caused it always slipped through the net, leaving me wondering if I No young child naturally believes that reality is firm.Experiencing a small tear in the fabric of reality can keep the door of doubt ajar.From my late teens to early twenties, I earnestly sought a mystical, personal relationship with God I cast my net narrowly the Anglican church but deeply, devoting hours to bible study, prayer, services, singing, and so on Sometimes I felt a ripple in the waters around me, but whatever caused it always slipped through the net, leaving me wondering if I d imagined it I never caught god, and grew content to find fulfilment elsewhere My experience with this book is similar I adored everything about Krauss The History of Love see my review HERE , except perhaps the title, and read it twice in less than a year I also love Kafka see my reviews HERE , so I came to this with high hopes There is much to admire, and many similarities of theme And yet Like Epstein, Nicole, and Kafka, my quest for enlightenment was ever elusive My failing, I think Three In One What if life in truth occurs in only one place from which one dreams of those other placesThis is three stories, disguised as two, told as one.Jules Epstein is a wealthy 68 year old Jewish New Yorker with three adult children He recently lost his parents, cast off his wife, and is now divesting himself of his material possessions It started with the loss of his interest in pleasure , he lived separately from his purchase of exquisite beauty and so adopted the disease of radical charity Nicole no surname is a 39 year old Jewish New Yorker with two young children, a stale marriage, and writer s block Rather heavy handed similarities with the author s own life at the time of writing The love had either dried up or been withheld Their chapters alternate, but they never knowingly meet Both have seminal lifelong links to Tel Aviv, specifically the Hilton Hotel Both go there alone, hoping to find meaning in their lives Both meet a different charismatic stranger who takes them out of the city on an obscure but specific spiritual cum creative quest relating to Jewish history Or maybe a wild good chase.One of those arises from the third story, perhaps from an alternate reality that Kafka didn t really die in Prague in 1924, but instead, moved to Israel, where he lived under a new name Anshel Peleg for 35 years, tended gardens, and continued to write, while his friend and executor, Max Brod, tended the cult of Kafka.Constructing Narrative It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma A strong theme is the power of stories, sacred and secular, epistemology, and the struggle of creating and telling them Turning that round on this book is a puzzle Nicole tells her own story, but Epstein s is related by a person unknown, and the alternative history of Kafka is told to Nicole by a man of uncertain authority, and maybe uncertain reality What is real within this world, let alone mine Nicole mentions her permeable mind, has slightly altered consciousness when ill, and despite her quote at the top of my Three in One section, believes in the multiverse becausethan once she experiences The idea of being in two places at once that I, in my uniqueness, might possibly be inhabiting two separate planes of existence Is some or all of her story imagined, and if so, imagined by fictional Nicole or only by the real Nicole Krauss Or maybe fictional Nicole is telling the story of her alternate self And how does Epstein fit in is he just a character included by one or both Nicoles for parallels Those thoughts reminded me of the riddle quote, above, though I didn t recall the source A shiver ran down my spine when I looked it up, just a few days after Mueller s indictments of thirteen Russians for meddling in the US election of 2016 Churchill s longer version, in 1939, was I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key That key is Russian national interest Filling the Void A broken heart isfull than one that is content because a broken heart has a vacancy, and the vacancy has the potential to be filled with the infinite It all comes back to this numinous quest In my youth, I believed the priests who said the hole inside was God shaped Perhaps there was no hole More likely, god, love, or whatever you want to call it, is a formless, shape shifting entity We need to continually remake and refill metamorphose to find and retain peace, happiness, and wholeness A Christian chorus comes unbidden to mind It includes the refrain Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me Nowadays, I address that to myself, rather than the spirit of the living God He felt the ballast gone Everything and everyone that held him to the pattern of himself was gone now He probed tenderly and discovered, as one discovers with all absences, that the emptiness was far larger than what had once filled its place Epstein, Nicole, and allegedly Kafka attempt that by returning to their roots That fits with my serendipitous purchase of this book I was on the way to my mother s the home she has lived in since I was six I stopped off in a nearby town, and found my feet taking me to the small independent bookshop I frequented as a child and teen Only the design of the free bookmarks had changed They had a single copy of this book I recently saw the stunning, beautiful, weird film The Shape of Water These words are shown just before the closing credits Symbolic SnippetsThere will be many that I missed in my ignorance of Jewish and Israeli matters The Man Who Disappeared was the original title of Kafka s novel that is better known as Amerika see my review HERE It was published three years after Kafka died or disappeared In Forest Dark, there s a man who disappears, perhaps two, a woman who disappears, a man who was maybe never there in the first place, and documents that disappear Some are sought and found Hidden coins in a swimming pool for fun and buried from guilt A suitcase with mysterious contents in a dream and maybe in reality The ideas of Freud, Descartes, Spinoza, and Kafka as well as Genesis and religious texts Black birds crows, jackdaws, and blackbirds A pun on Kafka s surname in Czech and thus his father s business logo, and also the meaning of his alleged new name, Anshel Doors, thresholds, and boundaries, especially between this world and paradise a common Kafka trope, carried through here See my review of Kafka s very short story, Before the Law, HERE Roots the physical landscape and buildings, as well as culture and family, especially where one was conceived and born Recurrence and circularity, but also parallels a tangle around Tel Aviv In someone s last known residence, A cockroach strutted majestically across the stone floor See my review of Kafka s Metamorphosis HERE Quotes Asserting the importance of accidental beauty over that of keeping up appearances Tel Aviv Erased so that she could be filled up with the son of God Mary, in The Annunciation, a favourite picture of Epstein s What had begun as an act of freedom had become another form of binding Writing The whole city seems to have agreed collectively to deny the existence of winter an aspect of their reality, because it conflicts with what they believe about who they are a people of the sun, of salt air and sultriness The weary but satisfied faces of those who have just drunk from the world s authenticity Tourists The twilight years where reality, of less and less use, begins to dissolve at the edges When you look at something for long enough, there is a point at which familiarity passes into strangeness We had gone to such lengths to fortify their lives against sadness, that they had learned to fear it Even to reach the threshold requires a susceptibility to hope and vivid yearning Epstein entered the way a man enters into his own solitude, without hope of filling it A melanoma removed it was his death that had been growing there, unfurling its colors The years passed, and the little white scar on his chest faded His death became imperceptible Nothing was ever finished here the world was built over and over again on the same ground, with the same broken materials Floating in a concentration of history reduced by the slow evaporation of time In The Dead Sea Do what you want, you re a free person, his mother used to yell at him but Inside the hem of his independence she d sewed her command, so that at his greatest moments of freedom he felt her pull on him lie gravity On the outside Israel is obsessed with borders, on the inside it lives without boundaries Some of us are touched too much, and some too little Some of Nicole s observations on Kafka Franz was drawn to transmogrification between human and animal, and that at times the writer identified with the animal sideKafka was master at revealing the projection of a conflicted inner desire Kafka had always been posthumous to himself and had been staging his own death for years To be trapped and confined in a bewildering environment hostile to one s inner conditions, in which one is fated to be obtusely misunderstood and mistreated because one can t see the way out But none of his characters change direction, so can t escape their absurd existential conditions all they can do is die of them Kafka had to die to come to Israel, a death that effectively killed his estranged father, and Brod invented and cultivated the myth Sometimes when writing a review I m torn between expressing my personal opinion of the book I ve read and trying to imagine how others will feel about the book In other words I don t want to recommend a book others won t like This is a book I loved reading but suspect others will struggle with Because the narrative threads are at times obscure and difficult to reconcile Forest Dark is a very Jewish novel Krauss has already shown she s a writer one of whose strengths and weaknesses is a desi Sometimes when writing a review I m torn between expressing my personal opinion of the book I ve read and trying to imagine how others will feel about the book In other words I don t want to recommend a book others won t like This is a book I loved reading but suspect others will struggle with Because the narrative threads are at times obscure and difficult to reconcile Forest Dark is a very Jewish novel Krauss has already shown she s a writer one of whose strengths and weaknesses is a desire to charm her readers Often here it s as if Krauss is writing expressly for Jewish approval So, though this is a far less self consciously charming novel than History of Love ,she is again deploying charm as a tool She is writing for and imagining the response of a specific audience Or that s how it often felt The entire novel is set in Israel Early on, the author confides that she is having problems writing and in many respects this is a novel about the processes of composing a novel, the virtual world between the writer and her fiction The third person narrative about a rich successful Jewish businessman in the grip of an existential crisis is, we assume, the novel, the author is struggling with The first person narrator who is once named as Nicole is mired in a failing sterile marriage and visits Israel in pursuit of her novel She adopts a confessional voice as if she is telling us the truth and nothing but the truth Except her life soon becomesfictional than that of her novel s protagonist True things happen in the virtual world deception is often the reality in the real world The narrator is embroiled in a madcap conspiracy theory about Kafka which Krauss does a good job of convincing us might be true Everyone in the novel, including Kafka, has a divided self and is engaged in a struggle to reconcile outer and inner worlds This is cleverly dramatized towards the end when Epstein, the fictional character, finds himself on a film set, dressed, in the guise of an extra, as King David Nothing is what it seems in Forest Dark and yet it is a relentless excavation of truth I wasn t entirely convinced it worked as a novel but then, often, it is asking the question, what is a novel Krauss remains stringently loyal throughout to her themes and her writing is often wonderful She has lots of interest to say about life and in the end I loved reading it Impressive in scope and structure, yet rather frustrating If you re hoping for another History of Love, you re likely to come away disappointed while that book touched the heart this one is mostly cerebral Metafiction, the Kabbalah, and some alternative history featuring Kafka are a few of the major elements, so think about whether those topics attract or repel you Looking deeper, this is a book about Jewish self invention and reinvention, and in that respect is a bitsuccessful than K Impressive in scope and structure, yet rather frustrating If you re hoping for another History of Love, you re likely to come away disappointed while that book touched the heart this one is mostly cerebral Metafiction, the Kabbalah, and some alternative history featuring Kafka are a few of the major elements, so think about whether those topics attract or repel you Looking deeper, this is a book about Jewish self invention and reinvention, and in that respect is a bitsuccessful than Krauss s ex husband Jonathan Safran Foer s uncannily similar contribution, Here I Am a failing marriage, an old dog, a trip to Israel She s taken a page from Foer s first book, though, in making one of her protagonists a Jewish writer named Nicole whose marriage is coming to an end Blink and you ll miss it her name is given only once, at 19% in the Kindle book Nicole s necklace, found in Hilton pool There are two stories here 1 Jules Epstein his first name deliberately sounds like Jews leaves everything behind his reputation as a lawyer, his ex wife and three grown children, the fortune he s invested in works of art to take up an ascetic life in Israel His new ambitions are to plant 400,000 trees as a memorial forest in honor of his late parents and to fund a biopic of the life of King David, his ancestor 2 While Epstein s narrative is in the third person, Nicole is the first person narrator of the alternating sections She s paralyzed by writer s block and heads to Tel Aviv in search of inspiration, but instead finds herself caught up in a project to uncover the lost works of Kafka.Now, when I read a novel with a dual narrative, especially when the two strands share a partial setting here, the Tel Aviv Hilton I fully expect them to meet up at some point In Forest Dark that never happens At least, I don t think so, unless they do at the very end view spoiler if Epstein is the man who jumps off the roof at the hotel just before Nicole leaves Israel, which may also be the same jumper she hears about towards the start of the novel but I minclined to think that he just disappears into the wilderness at the end of the book hide spoiler or they ve been interlocked the whole time view spoiler if Epstein s story is what Nicole eventually sets down after she gets over her writer s block hide spoiler I was so desperately looking for a meet up between the central characters and thought I d found one at 53% Aha He s stumbled on a young woman in a bathtub That must be her but it turned out to be a false lead Ultimately, I concluded that Jules Epstein and Nicole never met because view spoiler she was never actually in Israel this was all her illness induced hallucination, or her written fantasy of where she d go and what she d do if she wasn t stuck in an imploding family situation the idea came to me of dreaming my life from the Hilton having always been solidly somewhere, only dreaming of being lost , meaning that this is a novel within a novel hide spoiler The only thing that undeniably links these characters, then, is that both find themselves in a Dantean dark wood forest dark is the phrase used in the Longfellow translation of the opening of the Inferno of doubt about life s purpose, and have to decide what comes next.My favorite subplot was about Kafka my favorite passages were descriptions of the Israeli landscape my favorite individual scenes were the mix up about Epstein s coat and Haroon s screw up with the painting, rare pinpricks of humor in an otherwise highly serious worthy, to use a Briticism novel Overall I loved Epstein s story line it s a picture of a biblical style patriarch renouncing life s pleasures But put these elements together and you still don t have a fully satisfactory novel, especially because I sometimes found the Nicole character almost insufferably clever and inward gazing.All told, there s a lot to think about in this novelquestions than answers, really If you don t mind that in your fiction, you should be fine here Just keep in mind that of Krauss s previous novels, this is most like her first, Man Walks into a Room dreamy, uncertain, highbrow Whereas I compared Here I Am to Howard Jacobson, I d compare this to David Grossman and Krauss as Nicole even uses the phrase falling out of time, one of his novel titles Interesting, for sure, but not the return to form I d hoped for {KINDLE} ⚢ Forest Dark à Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis In the wake of his parents deaths, his divorce from his wife of than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line He also meets the rabbi s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project a film about the life of David being shot in the desert with life changing consequencesBut Epstein isn t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history Leaving her family in Brooklyn, a young, well known novelist arrives at the Tel Aviv Hilton where she has stayed every year since birth Troubled by writer s block and a failing marriage, she hopes that the hotel can unlock a dimension of reality and her own perception of life that has been closed off to her But when she meets a retired literature professor who proposes a project she can t turn down, she s drawn into a mystery that alters her life in ways she could never have imaginedBursting with life and humor, Forest Dark is a profound, mesmerizing novel of metamorphosis and self realization of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite I thought Nicole Krauss s Great House was excellent and I was looking forward to this very much Sadly, I thought Forest Dark was self regardingly flashy and ultimately empty.The book centres around two Jewish characters who are, in their different ways, having crises of identity and reassessing both their lives and their relationships with Israel and Judaism Jules Epstein is a hugely successful businessman who begins to give away his possessions and have a sort of holiday from being himself, w I thought Nicole Krauss s Great House was excellent and I was looking forward to this very much Sadly, I thought Forest Dark was self regardingly flashy and ultimately empty.The book centres around two Jewish characters who are, in their different ways, having crises of identity and reassessing both their lives and their relationships with Israel and Judaism Jules Epstein is a hugely successful businessman who begins to give away his possessions and have a sort of holiday from being himself, while Nicole is a writer struggling with writer s block who leaves her family to well find herself wouldn t be an inappropriate clich The two stories intercut with each other although I don t really know why, other than that it s the fashion at the moment.There is a huge amount of intellectualising here, which would be fine by me if it made some sense or had real depth but most of it doesn t I know a lot of professional critics think this is a brilliant masterpiece, but it just made me cross in the end and I m glad that neither the characters nor the author nor Kafka, come to that could hear what I was saying about them because I was driven to some thoroughly reprehensible language as I was reading Leaving aside the almost invariably ghastly idea of a writer writing about a writer who is struggling to write and the undoubtedly postmodern something or other of naming the fictional writer after herself, Krauss goes in for a lot of what seemed to me to be show off cleverness for its own sake much of which isn t really clever at all For example, there s a long passage where Nicole hears a radio broadcast about modern cosmology and then considers the nature of knowledge We get stuff like this But in a multiverse, the concepts of known and unknown are rendered useless, for everything is equally known and unknown, which, frankly, is unmitigated tosh Or In the end we have made ourselves ill with knowledge Really How have we done that, exactly I suspect that quite a few people who are alive because of modern medical knowledge might well have something to say on the matter Or Now, we have little choice but to live in the arid fields of reason What, you really think that is the problem at the moment Allow me to present you with some alternative facts There s also a sort of variation on solipsism which sounds as though a hippy, still tripping on the acid they took at Woodstock, has been taken to see The Matrix and, having speculated that each of us, in our own mind, may create space itself and everything in it for ourselves, Nicole says In that moment I knew unequivocally that if I was dreaming my life from anywhere, it was the Tel Aviv Hilton Er that would be the Tel Aviv Hilton which only exists in your dream, would it And so on and so on.I suspect that Krauss is trying to suggest that we have lost sight of the wonder of the unknown and the numinous, a view with which I have a good deal sympathy, but writing this sort of nonsense certainly doesn t make the case And in my view, Eliot s Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge Where is the knowledge we have lost in information says much of it better in two brief sentences I do realise that this is a novel and not a philosophical treatise, but in order to have any real content it surely requires some semblance of rationality, or at least originality of imagery Much of this just read to me like someone trying to show off how clever they are and getting it embarrassingly wrong.So, I m afraid I hated Forest Dark There have been some very fine novels about identity in the modern world recently including Jewish identity Salman Rushdie s The Golden House, David Grossman s A Horse Walks Into A Bar and even Will Self s Phone all spring to mind This doesn t begin to compare, I m afraid Nicole Krauss can still write a good sentence and come up with an arresting image from time to time, but as a novel I thought this was very poor I m sorry to have to say this about a writer whom I respect, but my advice is to avoid this book