‘Forest Dark’ – the fourth novel by Nicole Krauss begins with the disappearance of Jules Epstein, a wealthy, old man from Manhattan, who returns to his roots in Tel Aviv – on a mission – and then disappears without leaving a trace. In a parallel track, a writer named Nicole – with a failing marriage and suffering from writers’ block – also leaves for Tel Aviv, hoping to disappear into fiction.
Both Epstein and Nicole encounter strangers, who entice them with offers too lucrative to turn down. Epstein finds out he might have connections to the legendary King David, while Nicole is drawn into an adventure involving Franz Kafka. While both the protagonists are drawn to Tel Aviv, and converge the Hilton, their tracks do not meet. These parallel stories, with their inherent philosophical undertones, are essentially tales of metamorphosis.
In fact, metamorphosis or transformation is the underlying theme in the novel. Both Epstein and Nicole set on a journey of self-discovery and realisation as they chase their goals in Israel. This novel is almost autobiographical for Krauss; the resemblance of her and Nicole are too hard to miss. ‘Forest Dark’ forces you to press the snooze button on life, sit back and think over.
The book comes as a boon for literature enthusiasts too. The Kafka references and snippets on history and religion are a delectable read. Krauss offers us an alternate view of Kafka’s life, which makes for an interesting theory. However, the narrative loses steam with too many plot twists.
Overall, ‘Forest Dark’ is fiercely philosophical, often preachy, magnificently written work of autobiographical fiction, which is meandering at times despite being engagingly enigmatic.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
P.S. This review is part of Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme