If Kafka Were Israeli and Wrote About Talking Goldfish

Gal Beckerman in The New York Times:

The car crash brought it all into focus. For the short-story writer Etgar Keret, a new collection usually takes shape in response to some overwhelming event in his life. He’ll be writing his three- or four-page tales, saving them to folders on his computer that he occasionally loses, then boom, something happens that ties them all together. This time it was a literal boom. Two years ago, he was on his way from Connecticut to Boston when his driver, speeding to get to the next reading, hit another car on the highway. The windshield shattered, the airbags exploded, and the car filled with the smell of fuel. Keret had broken two ribs. “I was waiting for the whole shebang, for all my life to pass before my eyes,” he said. “Lots of thoughts entered my head. That I’d had a good life, but I was a little bit sad that it was short. I was hoping that my wife would get remarried. And I was thinking to myself that I should have switched to a new agent because it will really be more difficult for my wife to work with my current agent. Practical and tiny issues.”

As a police officer dragged him out of the smoking car, Keret focused on summing up his impending death: “All in all what is happening now, my death, is just a glitch at the edge of the galaxy.” With that, he had the binding idea for his sixth collection of stories, coming in September in English as “Fly Already.” In many ways these sardonic and very short fables are the next installment in the series of strange scenarios cooked up in Keret’s brain since his first collection appeared in Hebrew in 1992. In the United States, they have made him into a cult darling for those who have heard him interpreted on “This American Life” or read them in The New Yorker.

…One of the most nightmarish new pieces is “Tabula Rasa,” about an institute in which people pay to produce clones they can then kill. It’s told from the perspective of a man who turns out to be the clone of Hitler, whose creation was paid for by a Holocaust survivor. But Keret shifts the readers’ sympathies to the clone, who has so much humanity that the survivor is robbed of the satisfaction he thought he would get from shooting him in the head.

More here.