Review: Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

Suddenly, a Knock on the DoorEtgar Keret, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door (trans. Miriam Shlesinger, Sondra Silverston, and Nathan Englander)

This collection of short stories is a strange mixture of realism and fantasy, comedy and tragedy. Keret is an Israeli author, and several of his stories reflect the current struggles of that country; one of them begins with a conversation in a restaurant and ends with a suicide bombing. But there is no grand political pronouncement in these stories, and ultimately they’re not about politics. Rather, they depict universal human experiences like sex, friendship, death, love, loneliness, chance, and fate. My favorite story in the collection (“What, of This Goldfish, Would You Wish?”) starts with politics but ends somewhere else entirely, as a documentarian interviews both Jewish and Arab residents of Israel and meets a man with a magic goldfish. Most of these stories are dark, and many are surreal, but all of them offer a fascinating perspective on the human condition.

I don’t often read short stories, and I’d certainly never read anything by Keret before, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this collection. Keret’s style is very understated and direct, which works well in his fantastical stories especially; it’s as though he’s telling a joke with a completely deadpan expression. I also think the stories as a whole are very well-crafted, with endings that are resonant and satisfying but don’t necessarily tie everything up too neatly. I definitely teared up on more than one occasion! As usual, a few of the stories didn’t quite work for me — the titular story in particular was a bit too clever for its own good — but overall I was very impressed with this collection and plan to read more by Etgar Keret.

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