Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Israel News

Living the Surreal Life

The mind of Israeli writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret doesn’t rest easy, and the same could be said of Keret’s feet. He landed in New York recently, and decided that the best way to traverse Manhattan to record a podcast at the Forward studios was to walk. He was in the states, in part, for a retrospective of his films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Storyteller: Etgar Keret Image by MOTI KIKAYON

Keret has found a diverse international audience with his short stories — the bare bones of which, to most of us, go unnoticed: a sentence he misheard, a string of words, a fragment from a dream. He is drawn to humor, he said, because it is “a unique human trait”; animals don’t have it. At Keret’s home in Tel Aviv, his writing desk faces a toilet rather than a window that allows a view of a lush forest. “When I write, I don’t know where I am,” he explained.

It’s no surprise to his multinational fans that his overly visual stories are readily adapted into films, though he humbly admits that convincing producers to support the making of the 2007 film “Jellyfish,” which he co-directed with his wife, Shira Geffen, “was like stealing a car.” He says he fumbled in the unfamiliar medium, yet the film won the coveted prize at Cannes, the Camera d’Or.

On April 30, Keret will release a new story collection in Israel called “Suddenly a Knock on the Door.” He told the Forward that many of the stories take place in his own neighborhood or on planes, a setting he calls “a reality show that nobody bothers to shoot.” A particular plane story that stayed in his brain was about a friend’s father who, during takeoff, saw a small wheel free itself from the plane’s bottom. When he reported this to the flight crew, they insisted he imagined it. When he grew irate, the attendants strapped him down to quiet him so as not to frighten passengers. Bizarre and a bit dark, it’s a Keret-ready story if there ever was one.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.