I’ve been wanting to read more works by Etgar Keret ever since I finished The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that this particular collection had a lot more short stories that resonated with me than the aforementioned one.
Exuding a rare combination of depth and accessibility, Keret’s tales overflow with absurdity, humour, longing and compassion, and though their circumstances are often strange and surreal, his characters are defined by a familiar and fierce humanity.
My favorite stories and moments include:
“He made up these lies in a flash, never thinking he’d have to cross paths with them again.”
A pathological liar discovers one day that all the lies he tells come true. The sheer attention to details paid in here blew me away. Also, any story starting with a dream will have my utter and complete attention.
Follows our main character, Orit, going to a morgue to identify the dead body of her husband, whom she only married to get out of serving in the IDF. Her marriage was fictitious but nonetheless interesting to read about in this swift story.
3. A Good One:
I’m including this story in my list for the sheer fact that the clap-back Gershon gave this lowly New York security guard for mocking his Israeli accent was phenomenal. In case you’re interested here’s the full of it:
“Well, open it already,” Mustache continued. “You know what open means, sir?” And he quickly spelled the word. “I know what open means,” Gershon replied, clutching the attaché case to his chest with both hands. “I also know what closed means, and nominal yield, and oxymoron. I even know the second law of thermodynamics and what Wittgenstein’s tractatus is. I know lots of things you’ll never know, you arrogant little nothing. And one of those amazing secrets you’ll never get to host under the very thin skin of your brain is what I have in my attaché case. Do you even know who I am? Why I came here today? Do you even know anything about existence? The world? Anything beyond the number of the bus that takes you here and home every day, beyond the names of the neighbors in that dark, crummy building you live in? “Sir …” Jacket tried to stop the flow with pragmatic politeness, but it was too late. “I look at you,” Gershon went on, “and in a second I see your whole life story. Everything’s written right there, on that receding hairline of yours. Everything. The best day of your life will be when the basketball team you root for wins the championship. The worst day will be when your fat wife dies of cancer because your medical insurance doesn’t cover the treatment. And everything that comes between those two moments will pass like a weak fart so that at the end of your life, when you try to look back, you won’t even be able to remember what it smells like …”
This one’s not to be trifled with.
4. What, of this Goldfish, Would You Wish?:
This following story is set around Yonatan’s idea for a “brilliant documentary,” where it’s him and his little camera, knocking on people’s doors to ask a single question: “If you found a talking goldfish that granted you three wishes, what would you wish for.”
And one particular response that he got really struck me to the core:
“A Holocaust survivor with a number on his arm asked very slowly, in a quiet voice—as if he’d been waiting for Yoni to come, as if it weren’t an exercise at all—he’d been wondering (if this fish didn’t mind), would it be possible for all the Nazis left living in the world to be held accountable for their crimes?”
My life goal is to see this go through.
And the story wrapped up quite unexpectedly after that, but that’s something I’ve come to expect with Etgar Keret. From stories without a concise ending to discussing parallel universes, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door left me with a lot of food for thought.