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La gran casa by Nicole Krauss

La gran casa (original 2010; edition 2012)

by Nicole Krauss

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1,3291045,845 (3.53)1 / 295
Title:La gran casa
Authors:Nicole Krauss
Info:Ediciones Salamandra, S.A. (2012), Edition: 1ª ed 1ª imp, Perfect Paperback
Collections:Novelas invierno

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Great House by Nicole Krauss (2010)


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English (97)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (105)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
I thought Nicole Krauss' The History of Love was one of the best new novels in the last decade. Unfortunately, I didn't think Great House was nearly as good, but it was still a worthwhile read.

Great House is told through four alternating stories that shift back and forth over the course of five decades and four continents. The closest thing to a fixed point between the stories is a large antique wooden desk which makes it way from person to person. The other backdrop is history: the Holocaust, Israel's wars, Pinochet's coup, although we don't see any of these events, we just hear about how they have affected characters and the large desk that runs through all of them.

The disappointment was twofold: (1) the different overlapping stories don't come together in a satisfying resolution, in retrospect it clearly wasn't the author's intention that they do, but it still made it all feel less coherent and (2) there was something hollow and empty about the characters, again appears to have been the author's intention, but greatly at odds with the life-filled characters in The History of Love. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Couldn't get into this one. The plot of tracing an object's history through people's lives has been done many times over, and often better (Annie Proulx's "The Accordion Crimes" for one).
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
The semi-stream-of-conscious style really put me off. I found it tedious and made it hard for me to follow the plot. I quit after 3 chapters. I looked at the end of the book and found it was a good decision. All those words for little plot is too much for me.
  meelen | May 22, 2014 |
Really disappointed. It was really hard to get into. I loved History of Love, though, so maybe it's worth reading again later on to get the full appreciation? ( )
  earthforms | Feb 2, 2014 |
Several years ago I read [The History of Love], the second novel by Nicole Krauss, and was impressed enough to pick up this her third, even before it became a National Book Award finalist. Highly structured, the novel tells the stories of various people who all seem to have something to do with a certain desk. Each person's story is told in a distinctive voice, and the stories intertwine and merge until the reader at last sees the connections between them. Honestly I found this confusing until the end. For me, the more interesting aspect was the author's multifaceted approach to the subject of loneliness and alienation. How two people can live together without ever knowing each other, whether those people are husband and wife or parent and child,and whether it is possible to even truly know oneself. Especially if that person is a writer and in the habit of excluding the real world to create imaginary ones.

The book opens ominously. In a section called "All Rise", a woman is addressing "your honor" and describing her past relationships, how she came in possession of a large desk, and what happened to the previous owner of the desk. But on the second page is a paragraph set off from the rest:

She washed the blood from my hands and gave me a fresh T-shirt, maybe even her own. She thought I was your girlfriend or even your wife. No one has come for you yet. I won't leave your side. Talk to him.

Obviously something has happened, but the reader is given no other hints.

In the second section, titled "True Kindness", an angry father has an ongoing internal monologue about his relationship with his second son, someone he has never understood, and who has suddenly reappeared in his life.

The third section, "Swimming Holes", is conversational, again from the first person perspective, this time the voice of a retired professor, whose wife is a reclusive writer. He talks of his inability to break past her reserve, despite their long and loving marriage, and how, by protecting her privacy, he may have been deceiving himself.

The last section in the first half is "Lies Told by Children", and is told from the perspective of an outsider: a woman who has fallen in love with a man who lives with his sister in a big house and is completely cowed by his domineering father.

Each of these stories is revisited in the second half, although not in the same order. By the end, the reader is allowed to see how the stories interconnect. But as I said, the plot was not the hook for me. I kept reading because of the language and the ideas about knowing oneself and others. The author is able to speak in the voices of different people very convincingly. But I finished the book several days ago, and I still don't know what to make of it, not even whether or not I liked it. The key to the book (which is in no way a spoiler) lies in the last few pages, when one of the characters refers to a Jewish story about the creation of the Talmud in a school referred to as the Great House

...after the phrase in Books of Kings: He burned the house of God, the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.

Two thousand years have passed, my father used to tell me, and now every Jewish soul is built around the house that burned in that fire, so vast that we can, each one of us, only recall the tiniest fragment: a pattern on the wall, a knot in the wood of a door, a memory of how light fell across the floor. But if every Jewish memory were put together, every last holy fragment joined up again as one, the House would be built again, said Weisz, or rather a memory of the House so perfect that it would be, in essence, the original itself. Perhaps that is what they mean when they speak of the Messiah: a perfect assemblage of the infinite parts of the Jewish memory. In the next world, we will all dwell together in the memory of our memories. But that will not be for us, my father used to say. Not for you or me. We live, each of us, to preserve our fragment, in a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a keyhole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door.

Or a desk. ( )
3 vote labfs39 | Dec 30, 2013 |
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For Sasha and Cy
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Talk to him.
There are times when the kindness of strangers only makes matters worse because one realizes how badly one is in need of kindness and that the only source is a stranger.
It was one of those winter nights in England when the darkness that falls at three makes nine feel like midnight, reminding one of how far north one has staked one's life.
We stood in the hall of the house that had once been all of our house, a house that had been filled with life, every last room of it brimming with laughter, arguments, tears, dust, the smell of food, pain, desire, anger, and silence, too, the tightly coiled silence of people pressed up against each other in what is called a family.
As if to touch, ritually, one last time, every enduring pocket of pain. No, the powerful emotions of youth don’t mellow with time. One gets a grip on them, cracks a whip, forces them down. You build your defenses. Insist on order. The strength of feeling doesn’t lessen, it is simply contained.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393079988, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: In each of the short stories that nest like rooms in Nicole Krauss's Great House looms a tremendous desk. It may have belonged to Federico García Lorca, the great poet and dramatist who was one of thousands executed by Fascists in 1936, when the Spanish Civil War began. We know that the desk stood in Weisz's father's study in Budapest on a night in 1944, when the first stone shattered their window. After the war, Weisz hunts furniture looted from Jewish homes by the Nazis. He scours the world for the fragments to reassemble that study's every element, but the desk eludes him, and he and his children live at the edges of its absence. Meanwhile, it spends a few decades in an attic in England, where a woman exhumes the memories she can't speak except through violent stories. She gives the desk to the young Chilean-Jewish poet Daniel Varsky, who takes it to New York and passes it on (before he returns to Chile and disappears under Pinochet) to Nadia, who writes seven novels on it before Varsky's daughter calls to claim it. Crossing decades and continents, the stories of Great House narrate feeling more than fact. Krauss's characters inhabit "a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a keyhole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door," and a desk whose multitude of drawers becomes a mausoleum of memory. --Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Connected solely by a desk of enormous dimension and many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away, three people--a lonely American novelist clinging to the memory of a poet who has mysteriously vanished in Chile, an old man in Israel facing the imminent death of his wife of 51 years, and an esteemed antiques dealer tracking down the things stolen from his father by the Nazis--struggle to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393079988, 0393340643

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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