Study Guide

The History of Love Chapter 11: If Not, Not

By Nicole Krauss

Chapter 11: If Not, Not

  • Alma wakes up in her sleeping bag on the floor of her bedroom. Her bed is empty, and the sheets are stripped.
  • It has stopped raining.
  • It's the end of August, by the way.
  • She goes into the bathroom and takes off all her clothes, stands on the toilet, and looks in the mirror. She thinks maybe she should get a nose ring. (We don't think she needed to take off all her clothes to figure out that one.)
  • She goes downstairs to the kitchen. Her mom asks if she and Misha are in a fight.
  • Alma basically ignores her mom. Changing the subject, she asks how old the Alma is in The History of Love. Her mom says that there are lots of Almas in the book. As well, the sense of time is very mixed up. When it starts there's an Alma who is ten, and when it ends that same Alma is twenty. And there are no other Almas older than twenty.
  • Alma figures this means that Litvinoff must have fallen in love with the other Alma when they were ten, and she probably left for America when she was twenty.
  • Alma goes back to the New York City Municipal Archives to look for marriage records, but they're not kept there, so they send her to the City Clerk's Office.
  • And… she finds her: "Married in Brooklyn in 1942 to Mordecai Moritz, wedding performed by a Rabbi Greenberg" (11.14).
  • She finds a payphone, calls Information, and gets the address for a Mordecai Moritz in Manhattan. Woo-hoo!
  • On the way there, Alma daydreams about knocking on the door and having Alma Mereminski answer. She imagines her with white hair, and having a parrot that squawks. Alma tells her the story of her father finding The History of Love in the bookstore in Chile, and about her brother Bird, etc.
  • She misses her stop and has to walk back ten blocks. Now she thinks more realistically about the situation. She considers that maybe Alma Mereminski doesn't want to be found. Or maybe she's never even heard of the book. Or…
  • But when she gets to the apartment building, she asks for Mrs. Alma Moritz. The doorman says that she died five years ago.
  • Just in case, she asks the doorman if he's ever heard of The History of Love. He says that, if she wants to talk about books, she should talk to Mrs. Moritz's son Isaac, who is a famous writer. (This is a few weeks before he dies.)
  • Alma's never heard of the guy.
  • She and Uncle Julian go out for dinner and talk about relationships.
  • She gets home and her mother is planting flowers, celebrating the fact that she sent some more chapters off earlier in the day.
  • Alma freaks out, having been unable to insert a new love letter to Jacob Marcus inside.
  • She rummages through her mother's garbage, hoping to find some evidence of what she had sent, but finds nothing.
  • She wants to give up. She remembers that the original reason she started her adventure was to find someone her mother might fall in love with. Now she sees that's just never going to happen.
  • That night, lying in her sleeping bag, she reads some of The History of Love, trying to "find out something true about [her] father, and the things he might have told [her] if he hadn't died" (11.29).
  • The next morning, she wakes up and Bird has wet the bed.
  • A few days later, it's September. Uncle Julian leaves and, as a parting gift, he signs Alma up for a drawing class.