Jill's Reviews > Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret
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Apr 17, 12

Read from April 15 to 17, 2012

Etgar Keret can do more in three or four pages than many short story writers can in stories that border on novellas. There are nearly three dozen stories that span just 188 pages, yet many are simply brilliant.

The eponymous and first story starts with a directive: “Tell me a story.” Under gunpoint, the narrator – Etgar – is ordered to make up a story. He is interrupted early on: “That’s not a story…That’s an eyewitness report. It’s exactly what’s happening here and now. Exactly what we’re trying to run away from. Don’t you go and dump reality on us like a garbage truck. Use your imagination, man, create, invent, take it all the way.”

I quoted that passage at length because it’s really the raison d’etre of the collection. Etgar, an Israeli writer, leaves the politics and the moral quandaries to others such as David Grossman, Amos Oz and Nathan Englander. His stories focus on the escape from reality through stories that stretch and define us.

Some – as would be the case with any collection – are better than others. I’ll call out a few: Lieland, where the subjects of lies become real, is one of my favorites. The protagonist, Robbie, learns that his lies live and thrive in another dimension and he meets his “lies come alive” simply by turning a handle.

Teamwork, another fine story, starts like this: “My son wants me to kill her. He’s still young and doesn’t express this perfectly yet, but I know exactly what he’s after.” The “her” refers to his maternal grandmother; he is the product of divorce and a brutal plan is soon imagined by his obsequious father. Or take another story: Unzipping; in it, the narrator finds a small zipper under her lover’s tongue; when she pulls it, he opens up “like an oyster” with a second man revealed. One more: Mourner’s Meal. a very recent widow opens up her failing restaurant the morning after his funeral, and gains connection with a group of strangers.

Not all the stories succeed as well; it makes me wish there were a way I could rate this a 4.5. But the ones that DO shine are so luminous that it is hard for me not to rate upward.
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