About The Author
Born and raised in Israel, Etgar Keret is writer of short stories, graphic novels and screenplays for film and television. He also lectures at Tel Aviv University Film School and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
He has received the Prime Minister's Prize for literature and the Ministry of Culture Cinema Prize. His movie, Skin Deep, won the Israeli Oscar as well as first prize at several international film festivals. About 50 short films based on his stories have been produced, one of which was awarded the 1998 American MTV Prize for the best animated film.
It was the publication of Missing Kissinger, a collection of 50 flash fiction (very short) stories, in 1994 that first won him both critical acclaim and significant sales. He has gone onto publish several other collection of stories, as well as graphic novel collaborations with Asaf Hanuka and Rutu Modan.
An extremely popular writer amongst young Israelis, he has been described as "the Amos Oz of his generation" and is perhaps the most contemporary influential Israeli writer.
His latest collection of stories is Suddenly, A Knock at the Door. The Independent said: "Keret's stories explore the shaded space between joke and fable, between human understanding and the impossibilities of the world" and the Guardian described them as "highly patterned, highly charged, refracted reflections on the chaos and randomness of everyday existence".
To give you a taste of the absurdity, humour, longing and compassion, we're delighted to present 'Shut', one of the stories from his new book.
I know a man who fantasises all the time. I mean, this man even walks down the street with his eyes shut. One day, I'm sitting in the passenger seat of his car and I look over to the left and see him with both his hands on the wheel and his eyes shut. I'm serious, he was driving like that on a main road.
`Haggai,' I say, `that's not a good idea. Haggai, open your eyes.' But he keeps driving like everything's fine.
`You know where I am now?' he asks me.
`Open your eyes,' I say again, `come on, it's freaking me out.' Miraculously, we didn't crash.
The man would fantasise about other people's homes, that they were his. About their cars, about their jobs. Never mind their jobs. About his wife. He'd imagine that other women were his wife. And children too, kids he met in the street or the park, or saw on some TV series, imagining they were his family instead of his own kids. He'd spend hours doing it. If it was up to him, he'd spend his whole life at it.
`Haggai,' I say to him, `Haggai, wake up. Wake up to your own life. You have an amazing life. A fantastic wife. Great kids. Wake up.'
`Stop,' he answers from the depth of his beanbag, `don't ruin it. You know who I'm with now? Yotam Ratsabi, my old army buddy. I'm on a jeep tour with Yotam Ratsabi. Just me, Yoti and little Eviatar Mendelssohn. He's this smart-arse kid from Amit's nursery. And Eviatar, the little devil, says to me, "Dad, I'm thirsty. Can I have a beer?" Picture it. The boy's not seven yet. So I say, "No beer, Evi. You know Mum says it's not allowed." His mum, my ex , I mean. Rona Yedidia from school. Beautiful as a model, but tough, tough as nails.'
`Haggai,' I say, `he's not your son and she's not your wife. You're not divorced, man, you're happily married. Open your eyes.'
`Every time I bring the boy home to her, I get a hard-on,' he says, as if he doesn't hear me. `A hard-on as big as a ship's mast. She's beautiful, my ex , beautiful but tough. And that toughness is what gives me a hard-on.'
`She's not your ex ,' I say, `and you don't have a hard-on.' I know what I'm talking about. He's a metre away from me in his shorts. No hard-on there.
`We had to split up,' he says, `I hated being with her. And she hated being with herself too.' `Haggai,' I plead, `your wife's name is Carnie. And yes, she's beautiful. But she's not tough. Not with you.' His wife is really soft. She has the gentle soul of a bird and a big heart; she feels for everybody. We've been together for nine months now. Haggai starts work early, so I go to see her at eight thirty, just after she drops the kids off at nursery.
`Rona and I met at school,' he goes on. `She was my first and I was hers. After the divorce, I fucked around a lot, but none of the women even came close to her. And, you know, at least from a distance, she looks like she's still alone. If I found out she has someone, it would shatter me, even though we're divorced and everything. Shatter me into pieces. I just wouldn't be able to take it. None of the other women mean anything. Just her. She's the one who's always been there.'
`Haggai,' I say, `her name's Carnie and no one's with her. You're still married.'
`No one's with Rona either,' he says, and licks his dry lips, `no one. I'd kill myself if there was.'
Carnie comes into the flat now, carrying a shopping bag. She tosses a casual `hi' in my direction. Since we've been together, she tries to be more distant when other people are around. She doesn't even say hi to Haggai; she knows there's no point talking to him when his eyes are shut.
`My house,' he says, `right in the centre of Tel Aviv. Beautiful, with a mulberry tree right outside the window. But it's small, way too small. I need another room. On the weekends, when I have the kids, I have to get out the sofa-bed. It's a real pain in the neck. If I don't find a solution by the summer, I'll just have to move.'