Study Guide

The History of Love Chapter 7: Until the Writing Hand Hurts

By Nicole Krauss

Chapter 7: Until the Writing Hand Hurts

  • Leo Gursky has been reading the manuscript he found under his pillow—which he apparently wrote a long time ago—and now he's totally disoriented. He drops all the pages on the floor. He gets a paper cut picking them back up.
  • He reads the rest of the manuscript. All the Polish names have been changed into Spanish names—weird.
  • He washes the dirty pots and pans and then studies the package for clues as to who might have sent it. No note, no nothing—again, it's weird.
  • He wonders how in the world the book survived, since the only copy he knows of was destroyed in a flood.
  • There were some sections he had sent to the girl in America, but that was about it. "And here in my hands was almost the whole book! Somehow in English! With Spanish names! It boggles the mind" (7.15).
  • Leo feels like he should be able to crack this mystery since, you know, he is a locksmith.
  • Suddenly it occurs to him that maybe somehow he's a super-world famous writer without knowing it. Could it be? He goes out to the library to find out.
  • Yeah, he isn't.
  • He recalls how, after his heart attack, he thought about death constantly. This reminds him of the first time he understood what it means to die, when he was nine and his uncle passed away.
  • He was briefly left alone in a room with his uncle's body, and from then on was terrified that his parents were going to die.
  • But then he met his beloved, immediately stopped thinking about death, and instead thought about her all the time (great substitute).
  • Finally, he tells us his beloved's name: Alma (!).
  • After a while, he leaves the library and feels incredibly lonely.
  • He remembers a one-night stand he once had with a woman who had locked herself out of her apartment.
  • A few months later, she asks him to make a copy of her key, because she's in a relationship.
  • Leo secretly makes two copies and keeps one for himself, carrying it around in his pocket just "to pretend" (7.64).
  • Shortly thereafter, it occurs to him that, as a locksmith, he can break into any building in New York.
  • So he breaks into Carnegie Hall. Standing on stage, he imagines Alma standing next to him, playing her violin.
  • Back in the present, he walks home from the library in the rain. Bruno is in his apartment; the pages of his book are again strewn all over the floor. Bruno gives him a short critique of his work. Leo realizes he's speaking in Yiddish.
  • Bruno admits he too has been writing a book about Alma, and has always been in love with her.
  • Bruno reminds him about the book Leo sent his son in the mail, and encourages him to go get it back.