Israel’s Favorite Writer Looks Inward


Etgar Keret—Israel’s favorite magic realist—is back, and this time with a memoir: The Seven Good Years, his first foray into nonfiction.

The memoir spans the seven years between the birth of Keret’s son and the death of his father. What falls in between are meditations on air-travel, taxi-rides, the amorality of telemarketers, and, naturally, life, the universe, and everything. Like Keret’s fiction, the reader is dropped nakedly into the action, not hand-led; like in the case of “Pastrami,” first published in The New Yorker, which finds Keret’s family on a drive when an air-raid siren sounds, forcing them to play a game in which Keret and his wife comfortingly sandwich their son Lev between them on the asphalt.

Though Keret’s signature magic realism might be missing from these pages, they are no less peculiar. Case-in-point: the memoir begins with the birth of Keret’s son, which happens to coincide with a nearby terrorist attack. Keret sits in a ghostly hospital ward—the attending doctors having left to treat victims—leaving him to compare the traumas of childbirth with those of terrorism. The human drama has a bit of ghoulish feel—one reporter seems disappointed that the famous writer isn’t one of the victims—but is treated with all the sad and beautiful levity of a Keret story.

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