A world in which haemorrhoids can be heroes
ISRAEL’S finest short story writer, Etgar Keret, returns with another richly inventive collection. It is his fifth, and his first in 10 years. At first glance it seems business as usual — tightly compressed little tales in which the absurd regularly and riotously rubs shoulders with the absurd — but the more we read, the more hidden depths we discover. One can only assume Keret has spent the past decade honing his craft because this selection is easily his best to date.
Each story thrives from its surrealism. In Lieland a compulsive liar witnesses all the lies he has told come true. In Unzipping a woman finds a zip in her lover’s mouth, and when she opens it a new man steps out. Pick a Colour features God getting mugged by a gang of golden gods hellbent on breaking ‘‘ every bone in His divine body’’. And in the eponymous title tale a writer is held at gunpoint in his home and ordered to tell a story, one that is a far cry from reality: ‘‘ Use your imagination, man, create, invent, take it all the way.’’ This might as well be Keret’s manifesto. This and that unique brand of humour. ‘‘ I bet things like this never happen to Amos Oz or David Grossman,’’ the besieged writer-protagonist tells himself, referring to two of Israel’s best-known writers. Later, in Simyon, two officers squabble over the way one has informed a woman about the death of her husband. ‘‘ This is my first,’’ the younger one says defensively. ‘‘ I’m still training.’’
Often we see the jokes coming, like a telegraphed punch, but at other times Keret floors us with the unexpected, anything from sly, caustic wit to the most scabrous chutzpah. In Teamwork a son appeals to his father to hit his cruel babysitter ‘‘ harder than hard’’. Keret makes us wait for his punchline: the babysitter is Grandma.the marvellously titled Actually, I’ve Had Some Phenomenal Hard-ons Lately starts out as a Philip Roth-flavoured sex satire before swerving off on a different narrative route involving a hunt for a lost dog. As if anticipating us writing it off as a shaggy-dog story, Keret plays a final trick and has the dog impart tax advice to its owner. Our expectations are toppled once more in a devious little story, Haemorrhoid, where the haemorrhoid is the