The Seven Good Years

Alice O'Keefe in The Guardian:

KeretThe title of the Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s new collection of essays, The Seven Good Years, comes from the biblical story of the Pharaoh’s dream. One night, the Pharaoh has a vision of seven fat-fleshed cows and seven lean and ugly cows standing by a river. Joseph, who is called on for an interpretation, explains that seven years of abundance are coming to Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. “The seven good years were the years in which I was able to be both son to my father and father to my son,” explains Keret. “It was a time at which I could look back and see my past, and look forward and see my future. That may be something trivial for most people, but for my parents, coming from this black hole of the Holocaust, that sense of continuation was a desire or fantasy, and I guess that was projected on to me.” The man whose zany, inventive short stories once earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible of Israeli fiction is now 47, and has the lightly grizzled look of middle age. He is also more serious than one might expect from his writing. But then, The Seven Good Years feels very much like the work of a writer coming to maturity. It begins with the birth of his son Lev in a hospital outside Tel Aviv – his wife’s contractions slow down when all the nurses are called away to deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack – and ends just after the death of his father from cancer.

…Keret’s own determination to make the case for compromise and negotiation has come at considerable personal cost. He describes Lev coming home from school one day, aged eight, and asking him to stop speaking publicly about his views. “I said to him, why? And he said because we learned at school that everyone who wanted peace in this region got killed, Rabin, Sadat, even John Lennon got shot. He said, I want peace too but more than that I want to have parents.” Explaining the situation to a child growing up in Israel is a constant challenge. In order to show Lev why the Palestinians object to checkpoints, Keret and his wife set one up in their living room. “Every time he passed he would have to answer a question. Why do you need to pass? He’d say I need to pee, so I’d say do you really need to pee? When was the last time you peed? And after two hours he said I know why Palestinians are fighting, I’d fight too.”

More here.