The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Etgar Keret’

The Born Identity: An Interview with Sayed Kashua

April 29, 2013 | by

Portrait of the Arab-Israeli author Sayed Kashua.My Skype chat with Arab Israeli author Sayed Kashua started off on a promising note when we bonded over our ineptitude for all things mathematical. Except he, in typical fashion, was being facetious, while I had tried in vain to figure out Israeli time zones. The author—who also happens to be a columnist for the newspaper Ha’aretz and the writer of the popular Israeli-aired TV show Arab Labor—has an intimate relationship with the complexity of what it means to be an enigma in Israeli society. His most recent novel, Second Person Singular, is a delicately interwoven narrative, stitched together by instances of jealously, raw relationships, and the deeply embedded dogma of identity. Sayed’s cautionary tale doesn’t presume an intimate familiarity with the intractable Gordian Knot of Israeli society in order to understand human nature, willful dignity, and self-destructive tendencies. And therein lies the point.

I caught up with Kashua over the audible sounds of his young children shrieking in the background, and we spoke about the paradoxes of being an Arab Israeli columnist who lives in a prominently Jewish neighborhood, and whose daughter shares a schoolyard with the Israeli Prime Minister’s son.

I was just playing with my little boy.

How old is he?

I don’t know exactly…

I think maybe we’re both equally bad at math.

No, no, he is a year and eight months.

Just me then. You just came back from a book tour, which you’ve capped off by saying you want both sides to go to hell. So it sounds like it went well. Did you learn anything new in the interim?

Yes, that the real Jewish state is the Upper West Bank, in New York, and that Montreal can be very cold. I don’t know what I learned this time around, because it’s not my first time, but I think that this feeling that I can run away from dealing with identity, or not to feel like a persecuted minority will not go away if I move to Canada or the U.S. Because most people I met were dealing with issues of identity, language, belonging, and what does home mean. But most of the people that I met were Israeli, or Arab, or Palestinians. I think that identity doesn’t deserve so much thinking, to be honest. I think [from the tour] I have earned my confusion in a very honest way. Being a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it’s okay. We can be confused. I hear criticisms from both sides, but the majority of both sides really listen and like my work, so the tour was great.

Read More »

1 COMMENT

What Do We Have In Our Pockets?

January 23, 2013 | by

Author Etgar Keret and journalist and editor Dov Alfon have started a new intiative called storyvid, an attempt to create the literary equivalent of a music video. We bring you storyvid's first production, a four-minute pilot based on Keret’s story “What Do We Have In Our Pockets?” Goran Dukić of Wristcutters: A Love Story (also based on a Keret story) directs. The short was selected to screen in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which runs through the end of this week.

5 COMMENTS

What We’re Loving: Tropical Paradise, Anxiety, Translation

January 18, 2013 | by

When the novelist Adam Thirlwell told me his idea, I was skeptical: to publish a work of fiction in many translations, each version being a translation of the one before. But Adam Thirlwell is Adam Thirlwell, “schemey like a nine-year-old,” as one collaborator describes him, with “weird vibes, as if he does unorthodox things to the books he carries to the bathroom.” Multiples, the new issue of McSweeney’s, edited by Thirlwell, is an unorthodox thing of beauty, a stunt that only a kid would attempt, and an absolute pleasure to read—though almost nobody on earth will be able to read every page. What Thirlwell has done is to assemble new or obscure works by Kierkegaard, Vila-Matas, Krasznahorkai, et al., translated (and retranslated, and retranslated) by a dream team of polyglot writers. So, for example, Dave Eggers translates a Spanish translation by Alejandro Zambra of an English translation by Nathan Englander of a Hebrew translation by Etgar Keret of an English translation by John Wray of a previously untranslated short story by Franz Kafka. It’s a game of pro-level Chinese whispers, and—thanks to Thirlwell's list of contributors—a wide-angle snapshot of our literary firmament, circa now. Plus, the afterwords by Thirlwell and Francesco Pacifico have persuaded me not only that it would be fun to read Emilio Gadda in Italian, but that a translator can have more fun with an untranslatable writer than I ever dared to dream. —Lorin Stein

The editors of the New York Times blog Anxiety recently asked Laszlo Krasznahorkai to contribute an essay on the theme. This is the writer who eschews paragraph breaks and short sentences because he feels they are artificial and whose subjects are often very bleak—which is to say, he’s their ideal contributor. The author himself describes it as “a lyrical essay about the terrible meeting between boorishness and aggressiveness,” but with Krasznahorkai, it’s so much more than that. There are paragraph breaks and the occasional brief sentence (one wonders if the former appeared in the original version), but this is a hard little gem, a Möbius strip of what feels simultaneously like madness and utter logic. —Nicole Rudick

Read More »

2 COMMENTS

Etgar Keret, Tel Aviv, Israel

October 5, 2012 | by

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

The nicest place I ever got to write in was in MacDowell. My studio there was surrounded by a beautiful snowy forest, and looking out of the windows I could often see deer. During my residency there a friend came to visit. After having a beer together he said, “There is so much beauty around you, yet I can see from the angle at which your computer is placed that when you write all you can see is the toilet. Why is that?”

The answer was simple. When I write, what I see around me is the landscape of my story. I only get to enjoy the real one when I'm done. In the Keret family tradition my writing space is always one of the least desirable spots in our apartment, a place which only a person who is busy writing can bear. Currently it is a small metal table placed between the living room and the kitchen. The moment I stop writing I can notice on the other side of the road a beautiful grand tree allegedly planted sixty years ago by one of Israel’s finest children poets as well as the happy mess my son and I left on the balcony the day before, but this is just for a moment, most of the time I just see my stories which are usually much messier than the balcony floor. —Etgar Keret

[tweetbutton]

[facebook_ilike]

4 COMMENTS

Something Out of Something: Talking with Etgar Keret

May 1, 2012 | by

In 2006, the great book-blurber and novelist Gary Shteyngart called Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout “the best work of literature to come out of Israel in the last five thousand years—better than Leviticus and nearly as funny.” Keret may indeed be the most loved and widely read Israeli writer working today. He is known for his very short short stories, which are often described as “surreal” and “absurd.” It’s certainly the case that they do not adhere to the laws of the physical universe.

In his most recent collection, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door (published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a talking fish grants wishes; a woman unzips her boyfriend to reveal the German gentile inside; a middle-aged man is kidnapped and taken to his childhood. But at the heart of Keret’s writing is a deep compassion. His characters may be enmeshed in paradoxes unique to Israel—with its fraught borders, fragmented populations, and newly ancient language—but it’s always their humanity that shines through.

Keret is also a filmmaker. With his wife, Shira Geffen, he directed Jellyfish (2009), which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, and has had his work adapted to film, including Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Over the course of two weeks, during which his father passed away from cancer (he has written about his father for Tablet), Keret generously corresponded over e-mail for this interview.

Read More »

8 COMMENTS