19 May 08 | Chad W. Post

This is the fourth entry in our series covering all twenty-five Reading the World 2008 titles. Write-ups of the other titles can be found here. And information about the Reading the World program—a special collaboration between publishers and independent booksellers to promote literature in translation throughout the month of June—is available at the official RTW website.

With the release of The Nimrod Flipout a couple years back (another Reading the World title), Etgar Keret started receiving heaps of praise as one of the great young Israeli writers. He’s hip, young (just over 40), and his stories were featured on This American Life and Selected Shorts and in Zoetrope: All Story. And he’s been blurbed by such diverse writers as Salman Rushdie, Clive James, Neal Stephenson, and Amos Oz.

(This isn’t to say that Keret wasn’t already building a reputation pre-Nimrod. The first book of his to appear in English translation was The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories, which came out from St. Martin’s in 2001.)

This new title— The Girl on the Fridge —is actually a collection of early Keret stories that sound as odd and surreal as the ones in Nimrod Flipout.

Here’s the FSG description:

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.

And the book has been getting pretty good reviews. Just yesterday in the New York Times Joseph Weisberg gave it a mixed review:

From the beginning, the most unmistakable aspect of Keret’s style has been the length of his stories. Averaging about three pages, each presents a single fully formed incident, often surreal. In one of the stories in “The Girl on the Fridge,” a man waiting on the street hears from a passerby that the buses are all dead. When he goes to the central bus station, he sees “hundreds scattered all over the place, rivulets of fuel oozing out of their disemboweled shells, their shattered innards strewn on the black and silent asphalt.” The story manages to be both whimsical and deeply serious, a flight of fancy built around an image from the very real world of suicide bombings. [. . .]

If you haven’t read Keret, start with his 2006 collection, “The Nimrod Flipout.” It shows him more fully in command, better able to connect his style to the emotion that lies beneath.

After reading that book, you’re likely to be a Keret fan, maybe a big enough one to wonder how his singular talent first took shape. That’s the time to read The Girl on the Fridge.

So it looks like there are two Keret books to read . . . And although it’s a ways off, in January, this title will be the featuring Words Without Borders/Reading the World book club book.

For more info on Keret, he was interviewed on All Things Considered a couple weeks back, and the segment is available online.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Skin
The Skin by Curzio Malaparte
Reviewed by Peter Biello

“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .

Read More >

Love Sonnets & Elegies
Love Sonnets & Elegies by Louise Labé
Reviewed by Brandy Harrison

With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .

Read More >

Conversations
Conversations by César Aira
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .

Read More >

Nothing Ever Happens
Nothing Ever Happens by José Ovejero
Reviewed by Juan Carlos Postigo

You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .

The narrative history of. . .

Read More >

The Pendragon Legend
The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .

Read More >

Mr. Gwyn
Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco
Reviewed by Paul Doyle

Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is a set of two loosely interlinked novellas that play with narrative and the construction of character. Ably translated by Ann Goldstein, Mr. Gwyn plays some subtle metafictional games as Baricco delves into what it means. . .

Read More >

Bombay Stories
Bombay Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto
Reviewed by Will Eells

I must admit upfront that I went into reading Saadat Hasan Manto’s Bombay Stories almost entirely blind. I have not read Salman Rushdie. I have read, perhaps, two short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I might shamefully add that I really. . .

Read More >

The Gray Notebook
The Gray Notebook by Joseph Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Throughout his work The Gray Notebook, Josep Pla mentions many different authors, some of whom have inspired him to pick up a pen. One of them is Marcel Proust. Even though Pla normally prefers nonfiction, he lauds the French novelist. . .

Read More >

I am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan
I am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan by Various
Reviewed by Grant Barber

On that September 11th I had a conversation with a professor friend who was teaching a creative writing class that evening. He questioned, “What can I possibly teach when all of this has happened?” While the dismay and grief were. . .

Read More >

The Guest Cat
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
Reviewed by Robyn Kaufman

In a story of two emotionally distant people, Japanese author Takashi Hiraide expertly evokes powerful feelings of love, loss, and friendship in his novel The Guest Cat. The life of the unnamed narrator and his wife, both writers, is calm. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >