Nicole Krauss read from “Great House,” her latest novel, on Nov. 17 at the LeFrak Concert Hall for the Evening Readings series.
“Great House,” released on 2011, is about a desk that connects three people and their stories in its many drawers. There is a power over anyone who owns or gives it away.
Nadia, an American writer living in New York, receives the desk from a friend of Chilean poet Daniel Varsky, who leaves to Chile. However, he disappeared under Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator.
The writer continues to hold the desk until one day, a woman claiming to be Varsky’s daughter comes to request it and Nadia allows her to take it away.
“Great House” bring up issues like change and destruction as found in a story about an antique collector reassembling memorabilia from World War II.
Joseph Cuomo, founding director of the Evening Readings, began the event by summarizing Krauss’ novels, including “Man Walks into a Room” and “The History of Love.” He praised her writing and talked about “Great House.”
Cuomo introduced Krauss and she recalled the last time she was a guest at Queens College for an Evening Reading event three years ago.
Leonard Lopate, who interviewed Krauss, started the discussion on the novel but his nose began to bleed. Yet, he refused to stop the interview and proceeded with a tissue shoved up his nose.
Lopate said Krauss often used an old Jewish man as a character in her writing and asked for her reason.
“For me, writing is always about becoming what I can’t become. Writing is not limited to a reflection of my own experiences in life,” Krauss said.
During the question-and-answer portion, Krauss responded to an audience member asking about the idea behind the desk.
“Like the characters in the book, I had inherited that desk. The prior owner of my house designed it. It’s a brutal desk, it’s absolutely ugly; I would never choose it for myself,” Krauss said.
Another person asked Krauss about the Holocaust in her work and if any family members were affected. Krauss said her grandparents were both Jewish and European in a time of political upheaval.
“Their lives were basically directed by [the Holocaust], and I exist because of that event. If not, my grandparents would not have met each other. Therefore, my parents would not have met each other,” Krauss said.
She then explained how original stories do not really need one setting, rather, it can come from anywhere.
“I think the sense of which we are a family doesn’t come from here or there, it comes from everywhere,” Krauss said. “The sense of not ever being certain about any kind of palpable home, I think all of that deeply affected my work and my grandparents’ stories.”
The next Evening Reading is Dec. 16 with Zadie Smith. Admission to the event is $20, but free with a CUNY student ID.
For more information on the Evening Readings series, visit www.qcreadings.org.