Etgar Keret

Best-Selling Israeli Writer
Award-winning Filmmaker

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Is Reality Overrated?
  • The Dark and the Surreal World of Etgar Keret
  • The Keret House in Warsaw
  • What Animal Are you?
  • The Seven Good Years
  • Shorts and Shorts: An Evening of Keret’s Short Stories and Short Films
  • Israeli Fiction through Literature and Film
  • An Evening with Etgar Keret

“Etgar Keret is a genius…” —New York Times

“A brilliant writer…completely unlike any writer I know. The voice of the next generation.” —Salman Rushdie 

“If Kafka has the power to smash through the frozen sea of our souls, Keret perhaps can infiltrate our gray matter, adding synapses where none existed before.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Hailed as the voice of young Israel and one of its most radical and extraordinary writers, Etgar Keret is internationally acclaimed for his short stories. Born in Tel Aviv in 1967 to an extremely diverse family, his brother heads an Israeli group that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, and his sister is an orthodox Jew and the mother of ten children. Keret regards his family as a microcosm of Israel. His book, The Nimrod Flip-Out, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), is a collection of 32 short stories that captures the craziness of life in Israel today. Rarely extending beyond three or four pages, these stories fuse the banal with the surreal. Shot through with a dark, tragicomic sensibility and casual, comic-strip violence, he offers a window on a surreal world that is at once funny and sad.

His books are bestsellers in Israel and have been published in over thirty languages. Books include Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God (2004, St. Martin’s Press); Missing Kissinger (2007, Chatto & Windus); and Gaza Blues (2004). In France, Kneller’s Happy Campers is listed as one of the Fnac’s two-hundred books of the decade, and The Nimrod Flip-Out was published in Francis Ford Coppola’s magazine Zoetrope (2004). His most recent book Suddenly a Knock on the Door (2010) became an instant #1 bestseller in Israel. His next book, The Seven Good Years, a nonfiction account of his personal life, is due in 2015. Keret has received the Book Publishers Association`s Platinum Prize several times, the Chevalier medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, and has been awarded the Prime Minister`s Prize and the Ministry of Culture`s Cinema Prize. More than forty short movies have been based on his stories, one of which won the American MTV Prize (1998). Keret’s stories have even inspired Polish architect Jakub Szczesny to build in Warsaw the narrowest house in the world (38 inches wide). The house was named after Keret, who will be using the house for several years.

As a filmmaker, Keret is the writer of several feature screenplays, including Skin Deep (1996), which won First Prize at several international film festivals and was awarded the Israeli Oscar. Wrist Cutters, featuring Tom Waits, was released in August 2007. Jellyfish, his first movie as a director along with his wife Shira Geffen, won the coveted Camera d’Or prize for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival 2007. The animated feature film $9.99, based on several of Keret’s stories, marries the tradition of Jewish self-flagellating humor with uncanny absurdity. The film shows us miracles coexisting with the mundane, and offers a beguiling view of what hope looks like in a hauntingly fragmented world. Keret, at present, teaches at Ben Guryon University.

Etgar Keret’s website

Etgar Keret is the author of The Seven Good Years; Suddenly, A Knock on the Door; The Girl of the Fridge; Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be GodMissing Kissinger; and Gaza BluesKeret has received the Book Publishers Association’s Platinum Prize several times, the Chevalier medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, and has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize and the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Prize. His books are bestsellers in Israel and have been published in over thirty languages.

THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS (Nonfiction, 2015)
For six and a half years Etgar Keret has recorded his personal life, beginning with the birth of his first child and ending with his father’s death. But Keret’s sad-funny pieces tell much more than the story of his family and his career. With an ex-settler, ultra-Orthodox sister who has eleven children and eight grandchildren; a peacenik, marijuana-legalizing brother and Holocaust-survivor parents, his personal story seems to tell the story of an entire society. After all, when your child is born on the same day as a suicide bombing; when a chat among 3-year-old kids’ parents involves questions like “Will your son join the army when he’s eighteen?” and an old school-friend is scared that his model Eifel tower—made of matchsticks—will be ruined by Scud missiles, the personal and the national are hard to distinguish, especially in this strange part of the world.


“If you have room in your heart, wallet or reading list for just one book of short stories this year, make it Etgar Keret’s Suddenly, A Knock On The Door. I don’t care that it’s only April: It’s a superlative collection, one that will easily stand up to all comers.” —LA Times

Part Kafka, part Vonnegut, with the concerns and comedic delivery of Woody Allen, Etgar Keret is a brilliant 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 Suddenly, A Knock on the Door, 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, humor, sadness, and compassion, and though their circumstances are often strange and surreal, his characters are defined by a familiar and fierce humanity. Suddenly, 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 the twenty-first century.

THE GIRL ON THE FRIDGE (Stories, 2008)
This is a new collection of the stories that made Etgar Keret Israel’s bestselling and most acclaimed young writer. A birthday-party magician whose hat tricks end in horror and gore, a girl parented by a major household appliance, the possessor of the lowest IQ in the Mossad—such are the denizens of Etgar Keret’s dark and fertile mind. The Girl on the Fridge contains the best of Keret’s first collections, the ones that made him a household name in Israel and the major discovery of this last decade.

SUDDENLY, A KNOCK ON THE DOOR (excerpt from a short story)

“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 writes, 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.

ASTHMA ATTACK (entire story)

When you have an asthma attack, you can’t breathe. When you can’t breathe, you can hardly talk. To make a sentence all you get is the air in your lungs. Which isn’t much. Three to six words, if that. You learn the value of words. You rummage through the jumble in your head. Choose the crucial ones—those cost you too. Let healthy people toss out whatever comes to mind, the way you throw out the garbage. When an asthmatic says “I love you,” and when an asthmatic says “I love you madly,” there’s a difference. The difference of a word. A word’s a lot. It could be stop, or inhaler. It could even be ambulance.

—from The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories

THE NIMROD FLIP-OUT (story excerpt)

According to Miron, after He created the world, God stayed awfully complacent for a couple of million years. Until Miron came along all of a sudden, and started asking questions, and God broke out in a sweat. Because God could tell straight off that, unlike the rest of humanity, Miron was no pushover. And soon as you gave him the smallest opening he’d slam right through it, and God—everyone knows—is really big on dishing it out, but not on taking it. The last thing He can afford is a rebuttal, especially from a guy like Miron. So from the minute He realized it, He just kept driving Miron around the bend, hassling him whenever He could, with everything from bad dreams to girls who wouldn’t put out. Anything, just so the guy would fall apart.

—Translated by Miriam Shlesinger