Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret | Book review
A new book of dark short stories from the Israeli author.
The title story of Israeli author Etgar Keret’s newest collection reads as both taunt and manifesto. A writer is being held at gunpoint by a bearded man demanding a story. Over the course of a few pages, more men enter, each wielding a weapon and demanding a story. Keret seems to be telling readers not to expect the usual from his book, and that darkness awaits beyond: “In this country, if you want something, you have to use force.… The Palestinians asked for a state, nicely. Did they get one? The hell they did. So they switched to blowing up kids on buses, and people started listening.”
Keret has become a best-selling author in Israel and something of a cult figure in the U.S., thanks to his strange and slightly absurdist stories. Most American critics focus on the humor in his short-shorts—few last longer than several pages—as in “Mystique,” where the narrator boards a flight and sits next to a man who says everything the narrator is about to say.
But it’s Keret’s stories dealing with violence and trading in darkness that are his most memorable. That doesn’t mean they’re any less fantasist; they simply don’t let the reader off the hook so easily. In “Cheesus Christ,” a man is stabbed in a burger chain, triggering a theoretical discussion of cause and effect. And in “Lieland,” about a man who confronts the physical manifestations of the lies he’s told over the years, we find another manifesto: “In general if you tell people something bad, they buy right into it, because it strikes them as normal. But when you make up good things, they get suspicious.”