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Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret has been called the Kafka, the Vonnegut, the Woody Allen of Israel. He’s with us.

Etgar Keret (Moshe Shai)

Etgar Keret (Moshe Shai)

Etgar Keret writes stories so short and weird and wonderful they make you stop and think.  Could your lover have a zipper under his tongue and another man entirely inside?  Will our lies come back to greet us in another life?

Keret is a fabulist, and hip, and deep.  And Israeli.  Critics compare him to Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Woody Allen.  A writer who knows what Bruno Bettelheim called “the uses of enchantment,” in a life and place that can seem relentlessly brutal.

This hour, On Point:  talking goldfish, gunpoint composition, and Israeli writer, Etgar Keret.

-Tom Ashbrook




Etgar Keret, Israeli author and filmmaker, his latest book is Suddenly, a Knock on the Door.

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek “Ensconced in this new life, Keret spent eight years on the new book (it was published in Hebrew in 2010), his sixth collection since 1992. He did plenty else during that time, including codirecting a movie. But the stories that are his trademark—that start out conventionally (“Robbie was seven when he told his first lie”) then veer toward the absurd (a gumball machine transports Robbie to a place where his lies actually transpire)—trickled out more slowly than at any time since he began writing.”

Toronto Star “What a strange and wonderful adventure is an Etgar Keret story collection. At any given moment, you may find yourself in the company of a girl who has spent her childhood on top of a refrigerator, or a slow-witted Mossad agent who pulls a dwarf KGB spy from the back of his mind, or even a young lover whose beautiful girlfriend every night turns into a fat man with a hairy back.”

USA Today “A few years ago, July told me she really enjoyed Keret’s short stories, particularly his 2006 collection, The Nimrod Flipout. After reading a couple pieces by the acclaimed Israeli writer, I became a big fan.”


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  • Leora

    Great writer. Do you know his first name means “challenge” in Hebrew?

  • Julia

    Please ask if being the child of holocaust survivors contributed to his style or subject matter? Being a 2nd Generationer myself, I imagine it would! 

  • Laurie

     Tom, this is why I listen to your show as often as possible! What an exciting writer. I should be doing other things, but I can’t escape from my kitchen — amazed by your radio conversation. Headed out to buy the book as soon as you’re done! My clean kitchen thanks you.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed his story Fatso on This American Life.  I keep meaning to add his books to the ever expanding pile of books I need to read. 

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Definitely Different!  These short reads, between LONG pledge drives, are intriguing!

  • Yevno Aron

    Vonnegut is not Jewish.
    However, he is German.
    Etgar is a Germanic  JeW

    • Pruethorner

      Vonnegut is of German extraction. He is an American in terms of culture. There is nothing Germanic about Keret. He has a quixotic sense of the absurd, which can hardly be called Germanic.

    • Eliezer Pennywhistler

       And Gabriel García Márquez is a Colombian novelist.  And both Margaret Atwood and William Gibson are Canadian novelists.Did you, by some chance, have a point?

  • Norma Ratner Waldhorn

    His stories are so fresh and wise at the same time. Reading or listening to his work is a true delight. I wish I could read them in Hebrew.

    • Pruethorner

      Learn Hebrew then! After two years you will be able to read them in Hebrew. The language is fairly simple.

  • Anonymous

    Only seven comments? That surprised me though on second thought it shouldn’t have. I bailed out after 30 minutes even though Keret is a good but not great writer. He is also nothing like Woody Allen who is not a good writer.

    Keret is also no like Kafka. He is more like Bruno Schulz the Jewish writer who lived in Poland and was murdered there by an SS officer in 1942. (That was a real loss for literature).

    I doubt though that the host Mr. Ashbrook knows that much about literature and his repeated political comments shows this. 
    Would he have asked  Hungarian, Russian or Spanish writers if they work had political meaning. 

    Literature is not politics it’s about the human imagination ability to transform reality. 

    No wonder only seven people left comments here. 

    • Eliezer Pennywhistler

       The world is not measured by the number of comments received.

  • Mesmerized

    Never heard of this writer before, but I started listening to the interview on my drive home from the gym, with all sorts of immediate tasks planned (i.e. showering, eating), and instead I hurried inside and have been sitting on the couch, rapt, for the past hour… New fan here! Can’t wait to read his work!

  • Pingback: A Sense of the Absurd with Etgar Keret | Modular Designs' World | a blog about more than carpet

  • Slipstream

    I very much enjoyed this broadcast.  It is nice to know that the fabulist short story tradition is alive and well, at least in Israel.  Of course, fantasy/SF has been popular in recent years, but Keret’s work seems to fall into a specific branch that you could probably trace back to old folk tales like the Brothers Grimm.  (I havent researched this at all, just talking off the top of my head). 

    It is also interesting to come across an artist who speaks with such disarming frankness and amusement about his own creative processes and culture.  I will have to check out some of his writing.

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