Man Walks into a Room: Nicole Krauss

‘Man walks into a room’ is the first novel by the very talented author Nicole Krauss. This novel was critically acclaimed and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. In this novel, Krauss tackles very complex subjects, memory and love.  Krauss is an accomplished poet and we can see the same lyrical quality of her poems seeping into her prose. She uses unusual plotlines to explore the themes and creates a very thoughtful and emotional account of love and the loss of the memory of love in this beautiful novel.

Samson Greene wanders into the Nevada desert, unaware of how he reached there, oblivious even to his own identity, and with a tumour pressing against his brain. When he is picked up and taken to the hospital, there is some possibility that his life could be saved, but whether his mind could be saved, his memories be retained is not clear. Anna, his wife of ten years, is by his side when he undergoes the surgery and comes out alive, but without twenty four years of his memory. He cannot recognise his wife, his beautiful house, and the rows of books that he had lovingly collected and read. It is a difficult situation for Samson, who feels like a stranger in his own life, and for Anna to see her husband separated from her by the chasm of oblivion. As Samson and Anna try to come to terms with their new life, some of their questions are answered, the others are left unresolved. To understand his new self, to find a meaning for his new life Samson has to go to the desert again.

Krauss’s prose is beautifully rhythmic, dipping in and out of the conscious thought. Most of her story takes place in the mind; the brain is her real setting. She ponders on the relationship between memory and emotion. Is true empathy impossible without the memories of pain? Can a memory be transferred from one mind to another, and would such a transfer somehow connect the two people in a novel sense?  Krauss is absorbed by the mystery of the mind and she employs her story for delving into these questions.

The plot is slow paced, as is common with Krauss’s other novels. The characters a little less formed, less complete as if left off in mid-thought. Perhaps it was not her intention to paint them fully, but having read her excellent novel ‘Great House’ which is very strong on the characterization, ‘Man walks…’ felt a little lacking in that aspect. ‘Man walks…’ is also interesting in another manner; it throws some light on the thinking process of the author herself. The motifs that appear in Great House make a brief entry here; the writing style which is a little unsure in this novel turns magnificent in the later novel.   Nicole Krauss is one of my favourite authors and it was wonderful to see how her two novels compared.

‘Man walks into a Room’ is an engrossing novel and Krauss’s beautiful writing gives it a dreamlike quality. It is the first novel of a very talented writer and it is interesting to see how Krauss has treated her debut novel. It is a thought provoking work of literary fiction and I recommend it for these qualities.

This novel can be bought from Flipkart in India.

Book Source: Self