Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret : review by Toni Whitmont

by |January 3, 2012

Salman Rushdie calls him “a brilliant writer – completely unlike any writer I know. The voice of the next generation”.

Clive James describes him as “one of the most important writers alive – enchantingly witty”.

According to the New York Times, he is simply a genius.

Etgar Keret has long had a cult following with books like The Nimrod Flip-Out and The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God. He deserves so much more. His latest collection of short stories, Suddenly, a Knock on the Dooris dark, edgy, funny and poignant all at the same time. And did I say original? And did I say that these stories are best enjoyed being read, and laughed at, outloud?

Keret serves up bite-size morsels of satire, realism and absurdism – the perfect combination for anyone suffering from the bloated , overblown hyperbole that constitutes so much of the the best sellers list.

This collection is a gem. In it we have the tale of the woman who has had great sex with 28 men – all of whom are called Ari. There is a stunner of a story about writer’s block  (in the eponymous Suddenly, a Knock on the Door). There  is a sad and disconnected tale of the sporadically Hebrew speaking Chinese acupuncturist. Not to mention, the marvellous insurance salesman Oshri whose appointment with a potential client at a cafe is cut short when a young man who’d decided to end his life jumps out of an eleventh floor window in the building next to them only to put Oshri in a coma for weeks. In another jewel of concise writing, The Story, Victorious,  Keret confides to the reader that this is not only the best story in the book but also the best story in the world. And there is the wonderfully prophetic Lieland.

Thank heavens that English speakers are  finally given entrée to Keret’s world view. It seems that he has already been translated into just about every other language. Meanwhile, the writer continues to be a social critic, film maker, columnist and general all round bad-boy stirrer. Have a look at this clip and you will see what I mean. On a completely trivial point, he is also a dead ringer for Christos Tsoilkas.

As an aside, I want a donkey like that.

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door is available from Booktopia for delivery after February 1.


Etgar Keret is an ingenious and original master of the short story. Hilarious, witty and always unusual, declared a ‘genius’ by the New York Times, Keret brings all of his prodigious talent to bear in this, his sixth bestselling collection. Long a household name in Israel, where he has been declared the voice of his generation, Keret has been acknowledged as one of the country’s most radical and extraordinary writers. Exuding a rare combination of depth and accessibility, Keret’s tales overflow with absurdity, humour, longing and compassion, and though their circumstances are often strange and surreal, his characters are defined by a familiar and fierce humanity. A man barges into a writer’s house and, holding a gun to his head, demands that he tell him a story, something to take him away from the real world. A pathological liar discovers one day that all the lies he tells come true. A young woman finds a zip in her boyfriend’s mouth, and when she opens it he unfolds to reveal a completely different man inside. SUDDENLY, A KNOCK ON THE DOOR is at once Keret’s most mature and most playful work yet, and establishes him as one of the great global writers of our time. Etgar Keret is the author of the short story collections: KNELLER’S HAPPY CAMPERS, MISSING KISSINGER and THE NIMROD FLIP-OUT.

About the Author

Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Etgar Keret is one of the leading voices in Israeli literature and cinema. He is the author of five bestselling collections, which have been translated into twenty-nine languages. His writing has been published in the New York Times, le Monde, the Guardian, the Paris Review and Zoetrope. He has also written a number of award-winning screenplays, and Jellyfish, his first film as a director along with his wife Shira Geffen, won the Camera d’Or prize for best first feature at Cannes in 2007. In 2010 he was awarded the Chevalier medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters.

Excerpt from Lieland

Robbie was seven when he told his first lie. His mother had given him a wrinkled old 10-lira bill and asked  him to bo buy her a pack of king-size Kents at the grocery store. Robbie bought an ice cream cone instead. He took the change and hid the coins under a white rock int he backyard of their apartment building, and when Mother asked him what had happened he told her that a giant readheaded kid with a front tooth missing tackled him in the street, slapped him and took the money. And every since then, Robbie hadn’t stopped lying. When he was in high school he spent almost an entire week veggint out on the beach in Eilat, after selling the student conselor a story about his aunt form Beer Sheva who;d discovered she had cancer. When he was in the army, this imaginary aunt turned blind and saved his arse big time when he went AWOL. No detention, not even confined-to-barracks. There were lots of lies along the way in Robbie’s life. Lies without arms, lies that were ill, lies that did harm, lies that could kill. Lies on the foot, or behind the wheel, black-tie lies, and lies that could steal. He made up these lies in a flash, never thinking he’d have to cross paths with them again.

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