2010 National Book Award Finalist,

Nicole Krauss

Great House

W.W. Norton & Co.

Photo credit: Joyce Ravid


For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police-that is, until a girl claiming to be the poet's
daughter comes to claim it. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father's study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944. Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.


Nicole Krauss is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Man Walks Into a Room and the international bestseller The History of Love, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. It won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, and The Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Nicole Krauss' website

Video - Nicole Krauss on Sundance Channel

Nicole Krauss' Wikipedia entry



Here. Let me begin. You see, my child, a little bit every day I find myself contemplating my death. Investigating it. Dipping my toe, as it were. Not practicing so much as interrogating its conditions while I still possess powers of interrogation, and can still fathom oblivion. In one of these little excursions into the unknown I uncovered something about you that I’d almost forgotten. For the first three years of your life you knew nothing of death. You thought that it would all go on without end. On the first night you left your crib behind to sleep in a bed, I came to say good night to you. Now I’m going to sleep in a big-boy bed forever? you asked. Yes, I said, and we sat together, I imagining you on a flight through the halls of eternity clutching your blankie, you imagining whatever a child imagines when he tries to conceive of forever. A few days later you were sitting at the table playing with the food that you refused to eat. So don’t eat, I said. But if you don’t eat, you can’t leave the table. It’s as simple as that. Your lip began to tremble. Go ahead and sleep there for all I care, I said. This isn’t how Mama does it, you whined. I don’t care how she does it, I spat, this is how I do it, and you’re not moving until you eat! You burst into tears, protesting and carrying on. I ignored you. After a while silence filled the room, punctuated only by your little whimpers. Then, out of nowhere, you announced, When Yoella dies, we’ll get a dog. I was surprised. Because of the bluntness of the statement, and because I had no idea you knew anything of death. Won’t you be sad when she dies? I asked, forgetting for a moment the war of the food. And you, very practically, replied, Yes, because then we won’t have a cat to pet. A moment passed. What does it look like when people die? you asked. As if they’re asleep, I said, only they don’t breathe. You thought about this. Do children die? you asked. I felt a pain open in my chest. Sometimes, I said. Perhaps I should have chosen other words. Never, or simply, No. But I didn’t lie to you. At least you can say that of me. Then, turning your little face to me, without flinching, you asked, Will I die? And as you said the words horror filled me as it had never before, tears burned my eyes, and instead of saying what I should have said, Not for a long, long time, or Not you my child, you alone will live forever, I said, simply, Yes. And because, no matter how you suffered, deep inside you were still an animal like any other who wants to live, feel the sun, and be free, you said, But I don’t want to die. The terrible injustice of it filled you. And you looked at me as if I were responsible.