by Etgar Keret
translated by the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature
This is a collection of very short, very odd stories and one strange novella.
Keret is apparently hailed the the hip young writer in Israel; he is also a lecturer in film at Tel Aviv University; and the comic collective Actus Tragicus has turned some of his short stories in graphic novellas.
Nothing seems out of bounds in Keret’s stories, which feature things like dead folks getting one day out of hell in a local town once every hundred years; an afterlife populated entirely by suicides; a beautiful uterus on display in a museum, and an angel who turns out to be just “a liar with wings.”
There are also stories without these types of fantastic elements, and they might make you wish they weren’t possible, but they are, and that is what makes them good. “Shoes” is one such story. In it, a group of school kids are taken to a Jewish history museum, and are told by a Holocaust survivor that they shouldn’t use German-made products, because “underneath the fancy wrapping there are parts and tubes that they made out of the bones and skin and flesh of dead Jews.” Not long after the trip to the museum a boy whose grandfather was killed in the Holocaust is given a new pair of good, expensive sneakers, sneakers made in Germany. He doesn’t want to wear them, but he also doesn’t want to make his mother sadder by refusing to wear them, so puts them on before he goes out to play soccer:
At the beginning of the game, I still remembered not to kick with the tip of my shoe, so that it wouldn’t hurt Grandpa, but after a while I forgot, just like the old man at Volhynia House said people tend to do, and I even managed to kick a tiebreaker. But when the game was over I remembered and looked at the shoes. All of a sudden they were so comfortable, much bouncier than when they were in the box. “Some goal, eh?” I reminded Grandpa on the way home. “The goalie didn’t know what hit him.” Grandpa didn’t answer, but judging by the tread I could tell that he was pleased, too.
If you are looking for an unusual voice, and enjoy shorter short stories, this book is a good read. Different, and recommended.