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Photo © Beowulf Sheehan / PEN American Center
The following story is from Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, a 2012 PEN World Voices Festival participant.
“Tell me a story,” the bearded man sitting on my living-room sofa commands. The situation, I must say, is anything but pleasant. I’m someone who writesstories, not someone who tells them. And even that isn’t something I do on demand. The last time anyone asked me to tell him a story, it was my son. That was a year ago. I told him something about a fairy and a ferret—I don’t even remember what exactly—and within two minutes he was fast asleep. But the situation is fundamentally different. Because my son doesn’t have a beard, or a pistol. Because my son asked for the story nicely, and this man is simply trying to rob me of it. 
Click here to read more - PEN.org

Photo © Beowulf Sheehan / PEN American Center

The following story is from Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, a 2012 PEN World Voices Festival participant.

“Tell me a story,” the bearded man sitting on my living-room sofa commands. The situation, I must say, is anything but pleasant. I’m someone who writesstories, not someone who tells themAnd even that isn’t something I do on demand. The last time anyone asked me to tell him a story, it was my son. That was a year ago. I told him something about a fairy and a ferret—I don’t even remember what exactly—and within two minutes he was fast asleep. But the situation is fundamentally different. Because my son doesn’t have a beard, or a pistol. Because my son asked for the story nicely, and this man is simply trying to rob me of it. 

Click here to read more - PEN.org

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Due to police violence against protesters for social justice, and other violent acts in the past week, we decided to cancel our participation in the White Night events, scheduled to be held on Thursday June 28 with the sponsorship of Tel Aviv Municipality. Tel Aviv is a beloved and important city for all of us, but in our opinion it has no reason to celebrate at the moment.

 Etgar Keret, Alex Epstein, Orly Castel-Bloom, Dov Alfon and Yaheli Sobol on boycotting the White Nights festival in Israel

Artists boycott TA’s ‘White Night’ events - Israel Culture, Ynetnews

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Etgar Keret & George Saunders: Imagine That!

Etgar Keret & George Saunders: Imagine That!

The following talk was adapted from a conversation that took place as part of the 2007 PEN World Voices Festival.


 
George Saunders: I was amazed by your stories, by the quality and quantity of imagination, and the unbelievable overflow of ideas. So I wanted to ask a question that’s probably unfair. Can you pick a story, and talk us through the process—where the seed of the idea was, and how you arrived at the finished story?

Etgar Keret:
Well, there’s one story, I’m not sure I know its name in English correctly. I think it’s “Actually, I Do Have Hard-Ons Lately”? Something like that?

Saunders:
Oh yeah. It’s “The Quality of My Hard-Ons is Very Excellent Lately,” I think.

Audience: “Actually, I’ve Had Some Phenomenal Hard-Ons Lately.”

Keret:
That’s it. With that story I can tell you something about the process. I was sitting in a café and somebody with a cell phone at a table nearby said that sentence. He really said, “Actually, I’ve had some phenomenal hard-ons lately.” I looked at him, and he asked for a beer, and then I left. And I kept saying to people I knew, “I was sitting next to this guy, and he said this sentence.” And they’d say, “Um, okay.” And I’d say, “No, no! I really feel that there is something in this sentence, something in the grammar of it.” If he hadn’t said the “actually,” say, it would have been a different sentence, you know?

So I tried to invent this guy in my head. And the first thing that came to mind was that he had an affair with a woman at work. And what makes him feel best about this affair is that whenever they go to dinner, he can ask for the receipt, and it’s tax-deductible because she works with him. So he can cheat on his wife and on the IRS at the same time.

Saunders:
Incredible aphrodisiac.

Keret:
And the thing he likes about it is that when he does his accounting, and he staples the receipt, it’s a very nostalgic moment. He can think about this affair—and he can do it next to his wife, because he’s doing the accounting. And he can pet the receipt a little bit and then staple it. This was the image that came to mind for this guy in the café. It’s what was hiding behind that sentence. And I thought, “So this is the guy. Now what’s his story?” And the first answer was, “He likes his dog.” Because I felt this loneliness and this threat of sexuality—the idea that you have to fight so people will be convinced that you actually have some phenomenal hard-on.

Read the full interview here

I couldn’t explain to myself why I wrote it and exactly what purpose it was supposed to serve. The fact that I had typed all those made-up sentences was exciting, but also frightening. I felt as if I had to find someone to read the story right away, and even if he didn’t like or understand it, he could calm me down and tell me that writing it was perfectly all right, and not just another step on my road to insanity.
Etgar Keret on writing his first short story, back when he was a soldier in the Israeli army.


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