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Etgar Keret

(1967 – )

Etgar Keret is an Israeli author. Keret, often referred to as Israel’s hippest young artist, is one of the most popular writers among Israeli youth. Critic Nissim Calderon wrote that Keret is “the Amos Oz of his generation.” Keret’s books have all been bestsellers, and each of them was awarded the Platinum Prize for selling more than 40,000 copies.

Born in Tel Aviv on August 20, 1967, Keret published his first collection of 56 short stories, Ẓinorot (“Pipelines”), in 1992, followed two years later by Ga’aguai le-Kissinger, which was enthusiastically received by critics and readers alike. The mini-narratives, often only two or three pages long, are compact stories, postmodernistic texts in the fashion of video clips, depicting an episode, portraying a certain situation, opening thereby a window on a surreal world and on strange inner lives.

As in the work of the American writer Raymond Carver, an important influence on many young writers in Israel, the unexpected often springs from what seems to be common and every day. In the spirit of postmodernism, there is no dichotomy between low and high, pop and classic culture, real and imaginary; comic moments coalesce with melancholy ones, sentimental episodes with serious reflections, and the grotesque. Having been deserted by his girlfriend, Meir meets four dwarfs who try to help him overcome his sorrow; a young man has to prove to his girlfriend that he really loves her by literally tearing his heart out; Israeli soldiers discover that the terrorists who attacked them were just a bunch of Hebrew-speaking rabbits. Nonsense conceals biting criticism. Indeed, the argument that Keret is one of the seminal voices of a “private generation” in Hebrew literature is misleading: Politics come in through the back door, as it were, between the lines, or, as in the case of “Cocked and Locked” (included in E. Ben Ezer’s English anthology Sleepwalkers, 1999) with a cynical twist.

Like Orly Castel-Bloom, Keret too plays with language, probes metaphors and clichés, underlines the inadequacy of words, and at times creates his own vocabulary. In 1996 Keret published his first “Comics” (with Rutu Modan) entitled Lo Banu Lehenot, followed a year later by Simte’ot ha-Za’am (“Streets of Rage”; with illustrator Asaf Hanuka). Ha-Kaytana shel Kneller (“Kneller’s Happy Campers”) appeared in 1998, containing a novella and stories. Ḥayyim, the anti-hero of the novella, commits suicide and lives on in a world remarkably similar to the real one, with one major difference: the ability to perform miracles. In the surreal world, he meets his beloved Desirée as well as the Messiah, and although the dream of happiness is soon shattered, he remains optimistic. Anihu, a collection of stories, followed in 2004, and the same year also saw the publication of Pizzeria Kamikaze, a comic version (with illustrations by Asaf Hanuka) of Keret’s bestselling novella Kneller’s Happy Campers.

Keret’s creative output does not restrict itself to comics and prose; it includes newspaper columns, a book for children, films, and comedy. Keret, whose movie Skin Deep won the Israeli Oscar as well as first prize at several international film festivals, lectures at Tel Aviv University Film School and was invited to Berlin in the winter of 2003 as Samuel Fischer Guest Professor. He received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature and the Ministry of Culture Cinema Prize.

His works have been translated into many languages. Available in English translation are Selected Stories (1998); How to Make a Good Script Great (1996); Jetlag (1998); Kneller’s Happy Campers (2001); Anihu (2004); as well as the collection Gaza Blues with Palestinian author Samir el-Youssef (2004), and the children’s book Dad Runs Away with the Circus (2004).


N. Govrin, “Ha-Shoah ba-Sifrut ha-Ivrit shel ha-Dor ha-Ẓa’ir,” in: Ẓafon, 3 (1995), 151–160; L. Chudnovski, “Ha-Im Kayyamim Ḥorim Sheḥorim,” in: Iton 77:222–223 (1998), 24–29; A. Mendelson-Maoz, “Situaẓiyot Kiẓoniyyot be-Yeẓirotehem shel Castel-Bloom ve-Keret,” in: Dappim le-Meḥkar be-Sifrut, 11 (1998), 269–295; I. Zivoni, “Ki mi-Komiks Bata ve-el Komiks Tashuv,” in: Iton 77:234–235 (1999), 24–26; M. Shilgi, Keri’at Etgar (2002); H. Navon, “Iyyun Teologi be-Sippur shel Etgar Keret,” in: Alon Shevut, 19 (2004), 79–92.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: מוטי קיקיון, CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.