Study Guide

The History of Love Chapter 12: The Last Page

By Nicole Krauss

Chapter 12: The Last Page

  • Zvi Litvinoff begins copying his friend's book. He doesn't do it maliciously at all, just sort of absentmindedly.
  • He considers changing the name "Alma" to "Rosa," but finds himself unable to do so.
  • He remembers once seeing Alma and Leo kiss beneath the tree, how it made him feel "that everything that belonged to him was worthless."
  • He copies Chapter 18, entitled "Love Among the Angels," in which it's written that angels do not dream. Nor can they smell, apparently.
  • After copying one chapter every night, he finally finishes copying the whole thing. He takes his friend's manuscript and throws the pages into the trash under the sink. Then he takes them out and throws them in the garbage cans outside.
  • But he's still worried someone might find them, so he goes and fishes them out of the trash and sticks them under the bed.
  • By now they smell like garbage, so he buries them in the garden.
  • But, every time he looks at his landlady's flowers, he's wracked by guilt. So the next spring, he digs them up, sticks them in a drawer of his desk, and hides the key.
  • Fast-forward some years: the night before Litvinoff dies, he tells Rosa that there's something he wants to tell her. But he has a horrible coughing fit and can't get the words out. Finally he tells her, "I wanted you to love me" (12.23).
  • We rewind again, to the time when The History of Love was accepted by a small Chilean publishing house. The editor suggested some changes. Litvinoff tried to comply, but then he also insisted on attaching a new ending: "Chapter 39: The Death of Leopold Gursky."
  • Rosa, we are then told, was very good at keeping secrets. One thing she never told anyone was that, a few months after The History of Love was published, a letter came in the mail, addressed to Litvinoff.
  • She assumed that it was a belated rejection letter, so she opened it up. It was from Leo Gursky, written in Yiddish. He said he was alive in New York (not dead in Poland), and now he wanted the book he asked Litvinoff to hold onto all those years before.
  • Rosa realizes the truth. She remembers that she once opened Litvinoff's secret drawer and found the old Yiddish manuscript, but she decided not to ask about it.
  • She tears the letter into pieces and flushes it down the toilet. Then she writes back Leo, telling him that her husband is too ill to reply, and that his book was destroyed when their house was flooded.
  • The next day, she arranges for her and her husband to go on a picnic in the mountains. Just before leaving, she pretends to have forgotten something inside, unlocks the drawer, takes out the pages, turns on the tap in the sink, and walks out the door.