Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, by Etgar Keret

Article published on March 26, 2012.

Suddenly, a Knock at the Door, Etgar Keret’s first new collection in ten years, offers a masterful selection of short stories. Like those in his previous collections, the stories in Suddenly… are delightful little tales of the drama and absurdity of everyday life. These are extraordinary stories of seemingly average folks and the strange and surreal circumstances in which they find themselves.

While Suddenly… is full of so many great stories that it is hard to pick favourites, there are a number of tales that particularly stand out. In ‘Simyon’ a young woman confronts the death of her forgotten husband, while in ‘Unzipping’ the truth about a boyfriend’s character is revealed. Both of these stories offer surprisingly insights into the nature of humanity and the quality of relationships. Many of Keret’s stories are woven around the mundane spectres of daily life but some of them are quite delightfully, magically odd. In ‘What, of this Goldfish, Would You Ask’ a documentary filmmaker stumbles into a lonely Russian’s contemporary Aladdin-style dilemma, while ‘Haemorrhoid’ presents a surprising take on the nature of power and affliction. These are just four favourites from the collection but there are many more sublime stories to be enjoyed.

It’s hard to spot Keret himself among the disparate characters who people this collection, although several of the stories are about writers. In ‘Suddenly, a Knock on the Door’, the title story and first in the collection, a writer has to ward off increasingly aggressive demands that he produces a new story. Hopefully there were fewer pistols involved in the writing of this book. In ‘Creative Writing’ Aviad’s girlfriend experiences unexpected success with her story writing while Aviad himself can’t seem to master the ending. In ‘What Animal Are You?’ a writer has to satisfy the demands of fame while still preserving the innocent imagination of his son. Perhaps these stories shed some light on Keret’s creative process; certainly they’re very entertaining.

Keret’s stories have always been on the particularly short side of short stories but they are most often finely crafted gems that tell their tales perfectly. While his stories are frequently so good that you might wish they could go on longer, the actual tales tend to reach satisfying, if often surprising, conclusions. It’s rare that Keret misses the mark with his story construction and, in fact, there is only one story in this collection that doesn’t seem to offer the full picture. ‘Snot’, the one about the visit to the acupuncturist, stubbornly remains a snippet that could go on to greatness but actually just trails off. Still, that is a very minor issue when you consider just how good the other thirty-six stories in Suddenly… are.

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door is an amazing collection of fantastical stories. Keret’s stories are by turn poignant and funny, brutal and humane, and always supremely entertaining. These stories are bite-sized treats and the end of the book leaves you yearning for more. I hope the wait for Keret’s next collection will be significantly less than ten years.

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