In Forest Dark the lives of Jules Epstein and a nameless, famous writer are joined by the mere fact of being in one and the same novel. Both go to Tel Aviv in search of their Jewish identity. Though they walk similar paths they never meet. Only in the very last instant does the eye of the writer catch an image of Epstein.
Epstein is rich and succesful. He is a major influence in Jewish-American society. He has always taken things for granted, enjoying life and the art that he has bought, truly appreciating each object he has bought.
Our writer has writer’s block and senses she is missing something. An incident in the Tel Aviv hotel she has spent many a vacation in, makes her decide to there and (try to) write. In Tel Aviv she meets an old man who tells her Kafka did not die in Europe but moved to Israel (Palestine in those days) secretly. He continued living there for years, a suitcase filled with papers must collaborate this story.
The lives of Epstein and our writer deviate in two major ways. Epstein’s Jewish identity almost gently brings him into a state of contemplation. In this phase he sharply observes, knowing how to separate the right from wrong, remaining his own realistic self all the time. His old life no longer suffices, what’s next has to become clear.
Our writer thinks a lot about what she has to offer as a writer. How by merely writing things down they become true. She is being tiresomely philosophical and is influenced by the metaphysicalness of Kafka (which I by the way have never read). Her chapter could – as far as I know – could have been written by Kafka himself: magical-realism, reality and phantasy intertwine.
I have to admit Krauss could have skipped the writer as far as I was concerned. Her story kind of made me feel Krauss was foremost trying to show us how clever, philosophical, well-read she is. Tiresome, showy and strained. Epstein’s story on the other hand had me gripped from the start. Beautifully written, with philosophical and spiritual elements that spoke of Epstein. His search for his true self was realistic and poetic at the same time.
Is Forest Dark a master piece? Do I agree with all the raving critics? No, not really. I would have wanted that much more Epstein, because writing about him Krauss excelled. In the other chapters she was too busy showing off.