Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Review: Suddenly, A Knock On The Door

Reformed rebel still hot

    Keret: 'Writing has same function as when I was single, wild and dirty'
    Keret: 'Writing has same function as when I was single, wild and dirty'

    By Etgar Keret
    (Trans: Miriam Shlesinger, Sondra Silverston and Nathan Englander)
    Chatto & Windus, £12.99

    These days, Etgar Keret needs little introduction - at 44, and after five best-selling, short-story collections, he is widely recognised as one of Israel's most radical and talented writers. The sixth collection has taken him longer than the others - almost 10 years - while, in the meantime, Keret has been translated into 29 languages, won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for the extraordinary film, Jellyfish, which he made with his wife Shira Geffen, and the Chevalier Medallion of France's Order of Arts and Letters.

    The book is worth the wait. Relentlessly absurd, it is rich with Keret's characteristic insight, compassion - and black humour. It exceeds even his own, extraordinary, early promise.

    But the stories did not come easily. "A lot changed," he explains. "I got married; my son was born; I got a mortgage. I became a very bourgeois guy. Until then, I always lived a very unstable life. I'd always written about my world, and my world changed. So there was a period in which I didn't know what to do." Inspiration returned when he finished the title story, in which an author is mugged, at gunpoint, for his unwritten tales.

    "Often, my fiction is a way of trying to tell myself something, and this was telling me that I could write about my life as it is now… writing has the same essential function it had when I was single and wild and dirty. Now it is about my cleaner, more middle-class life… It was a long process."

    I was unstable and now I am middle class

    While the subject matter has subtly evolved - now he writes parent-child conflicts from the perspective of the father - fiction, for Keret, has always been a way of understanding himself. His first short story, Pipes, was written two weeks after the suicide of his best friend in the army; much of his subsequent work has been an attempt to make sense of his own feelings. "You have these inner emotions that are so deep, pushed so far in the dark, and you put them out there in a place where people can identify with them. So they can say: 'You're not a freak, because I feel the same way - or perhaps I don't, but I can still empathise."'

    In one story from the new collection, a man juggles a distant wife and mocking mistress, and depends on his dog for true emotional communion. When the dog goes missing and is then recovered, he decides to write a book about the experience: "And on page 300, the book would turn into a furry little animal readers could hug and stroke, as a way of coping with their loneliness." Keret's work, like his hero's cuddly novel, is honest, human and consoling. Only connect, as Forster commanded. Great fiction - and Keret writes great fiction - can make us all a little less alone.

The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Reunion

Amanda Hopkinson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Reunion
Books

A taste for forbidden flavours

Michael Kaminer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A taste for forbidden flavours
The Jewish Chronicle

Jodi Picoult competition entry form

Keren David

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jodi Picoult competition entry form
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours

Stephen Frosh

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours
Books

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me

Keren David

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me
Books

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...

Robert Philpot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...
Books

Can you solve these knotty problems?

Daniel Sugarman

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Can you solve these knotty problems?
Books

Getting ahead is a slice of pie

Suzanne Levy

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting ahead is a slice of pie
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar

Stoddard Martin

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar