From Bret Anthony Johnston's interview with Nicole Krauss, whose latest novel Great House was named a Finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2010.
BAJ: In the fiction category this year, each of the novels seems heavily researched. What role does research play in your writing process?See--Nicole Krauss' four favorite new books.
NK: Almost none. The main places where I set Great House are cities I’ve lived in and known all my life, and my memories of these places are more or less precise. After I finished the novel, I wrote to various friends to ask if you do indeed, pass the trenches Ypres on the way to Brussels if you’re coming from Calais (yes), or whether there were commercials for whores on German television in the Seventies (no), or whether the ticket hall at the West Finchley Tube station was above ground, as I remembered, or below, and so on— but these questions mostly involved details that had no real bearing on the stories themselves.
There was historical information that mattered to me as I wrote. For example, the fate of those kidnapped and disappeared under Pinochet’s regime in Chile, or the fact that Pinochet’s coup in 1973 and Israel’s Yom Kippur War took place three weeks apart, or that Freud fled Vienna in 1938 and his wife and daughter reassembled his study almost exactly, down to the last detail, in the house he moved into in North London, etc. But I was very familiar with these histories before I began writing. Somehow they found their way into the novel, but in most cases they eventually sunk to the bottom of the stories, became submerged, and appear on the surface only fleetingly.
Almost the whole novel is completely invented, imagined through and through. I can’t stress enough the importance to me of not being bound to reality, of feeling that I am completely free artistically. As for the true stories and historical facts that occasionally guided me, the question, for me, was why I was drawn to these particular things. Why had they gotten under my skin? Writing novels has always been a way for me to...[read on]