Nicole Krauss is still a 'debutant' writer, though widely celebrated, like her talented fellow-writer husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, largely because of their very skilled writing and unique and stylistic prose.
After her last novel, The History of Love (2005), was met with great critical acclaim and worldwide reader reception (the book is set to be released as a film by Warner Brothers in 2010), the expectations from her third novel, Great House, set to be published this October, are undoubtably abundant.
Until it will be available in bookshops, avid Krauss readers can content themselves with an excerpt, titled The Young Painters, from what is promised to be a "powerful, soaring novel" (Amazon).
The narrator in Painters is a female writer confessing to a 'Judge', as though admitting to a crime.
The act of writing is presented as a 'compensation' for an intrinsic loss in the narrator's life.
First, she writes a short story about a couple of children who were put to death by their own mother (the narrator herself does not have any children of her own, despite confessing: "Though when I was younger I believed I wanted to have a child, I was not surprised to find myself at thirty-five, and then forty, without one". Secondly, she writes a a novel about her recently deceased father: "I [...] took his illness and his suffering, with all its pungent detail, and finally even his death, as an opportunity to write about his life".
This incessant occupation with death is explained as some inexplicable urge to 'understand' or 'explain' something which is unexplainable; or to some nihilistic urge for 'artistic freedom' or "vocation"; to be "free of laws", or of morals.
The general atmosphere in Painters is that of mystery and suspense. An ambiance of noir-fiction prevails, that of decline and crepuscule, where even a child's cry is sounded as a warning, a looming threat.
Krauss's prose is very well crafted, even if at times it seems over-calculated and slightly academic, a trifle 'experimental', however reading The Young Painters brings to mind the best central-european suspense writers, like Stefan Zweig and Franz Kafka.
VERDICT: BUY IT as soon as it comes out.