Nora Krug is a German-American author and illustrator. Krug is a recipient of fellowships from Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Maurice Sendak Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service. Her visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home, about WWII and her own German family history, was chosen as a New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2018, as one of The Guardian’s 50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018 and Best Books of 2018, as an NPR Book of the Year 2018, as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Memoirs of 2018, and as one of Time Magazine’s 8 Must-Read Books you May Have Missed in 2018.
On January 15, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Secrets and Lies, alongside Lauretta Charlton, John Wray, and Carl Zimmer. We spoke to Nora ahead of the show.
What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing?
I remember being read The Grimms’ Fairy Tales by my parents. The one that most stuck with me was “Godfather Death,” about a physician’s pact with the devil. The most memorable moment is when Death takes the physician to a cavern filled with candles of different heights representing the remainder of the lives of all the people in the world. The physician is terrified to find out that his own candle is just a stump, about to go out. This may have been the moment I first realized that life is finite and that we ultimately have no control over our lives.
What is your favorite line from your current work?
“I feel a sudden pain, hollow but sharp and all-consuming as a paper cut, because even inherited memory hurts.”
What are you reading right now?
No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo, by Redmond O’Hanlon, and On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder – a very important book that anyone invested in saving our democracy should read.
What writer past or present do you wish you could eat dinner with?
William Shakespeare, to get a sense of who he really was. But I’d probably be so nervous, though, that I’d choke on the Beef y-Stywyd.
If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose?
David Mitchel’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, because of my passion for Japanese history. I wouldn’t want to spend more than a night, though.