By – December 9, 2019

In his most recent col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, Fly Already, Etgar Keret takes you into a par­al­lel plane of real­i­ty that is uncan­ni­ly famil­iar to our own, but pep­pered with whim­si­cal and some­times bleak­ly sci­ence-fic­tion­al twists and turns, where fathers shapeshift into rab­bits and escape rooms are cloaked anthro­po­log­i­cal tests on humans’ inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships. A care­ful read­er may pick up on some cohe­sive threads through­out the twen­ty-two dis­crete sto­ries, such as Avri, one of Tel Aviv’s mar­i­jua­na deal­ers, who makes his appear­ance both in One Gram Short” and Pineap­ple Crush.” Through­out each sto­ry, Keret shrewd­ly and insight­ful­ly inhab­its the first per­son of var­i­ous char­ac­ters who reside in this alter­nate real­i­ty; rang­ing from a mem­ber of the mil­i­tary in a dystopia where Trump has been elect­ed into his third term, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence with strik­ing­ly human feel­ings, an emo­tion­al­ly stunt­ed man on his fifti­eth birth­day, a nine­teen-year-old vir­gin, and a ston­er who glides from day to day liv­ing for Tel Aviv sun­sets accom­pa­nied by his dai­ly joint.

Often, Keret uses his favorite device: the screw­ball para­ble in this par­al­lel world to com­ment upon our own sociopo­lit­i­cal real­i­ty. For instance, while Pales­tini­ans are nev­er men­tioned, Keret uses our col­lec­tive cul­tur­al mem­o­ries of atroc­i­ties, like the Holo­caust, in evoca­tive ways to ask the read­er to reflect on how humans tend to cat­e­go­rize dif­fer­ent forms of oppres­sion of mar­gin­al­ized peo­ples by impor­tance based on their heritage.

While this alter­na­tive real­i­ty plays with the Niet­zschean con­cept that God is dead — as seen in Lad­der,” in which a new angel nav­i­gates a God­less heav­en run by high-rank­ing angels — play” is the oper­a­tive word here; there is a sense of whim­sy that comes through in Keret’s unique and skill­ful­ly trans­lat­ed voice. While in one sto­ry, an inter­faith cou­ple wan­ders through Yad Vashem on a guid­ed tour, emo­tion­al­ly ham­pered by the recent loss of their preg­nan­cy, in anoth­er sto­ry, At Night,” a pet gold­fish waits for his fam­i­ly to fall asleep so it may hop out of its fish­bowl, put on Dad’s checked slip­pers” and watch car­toons and nature films until four a.m.

In some of the more meta nar­ra­tives, such as Fun­gus,” in which a writer likens the act of writ­ing sto­ries to an itch…a fun­gus under my fin­ger­nail,” Keret rea­sons that A sto­ry isn’t a mag­ic spell or hyp­nother­a­py; a sto­ry is just a way to share with oth­er peo­ple some­thing you feel, some­thing inti­mate, some­times even embar­rass­ing…” The sto­ries in Fly Already share just this: human expe­ri­ences — some­times inti­mate, embar­rass­ing, whim­si­cal, and cyn­i­cal, but always gen­uine accounts of var­i­ous expres­sions of the human condition.

Sasha Tamar Stre­litz is a Ph.D. Can­di­date at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver who is plot­ting her escape from the tenth cir­cle of hell Dante omit­ted: adjuncting.

Discussion Questions

Etgar Keret has deliv­ered a tour-de-force once again in his lat­est col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, Fly Already. These sto­ries run the gamut. They are dark and fun­ny, touch­ing and heart­break­ing, edgy and prob­ing, weird yet relatable.

Keret has the uncan­ny abil­i­ty to write sto­ries that are both dis­tinct­ly Israeli and also per­fect­ly uni­ver­sal. In his sto­ry, Pineap­ple Crush,” a lone­ly man meets a woman on the Tel Aviv pier and finds com­fort and con­nec­tion with her. Though the set­ting is ancil­lary to the sto­ry, one sees upon deep­er inspec­tion that this is a sto­ry that can only be told as it is in Tel Aviv.

Through tight­ly packed, terse lan­guage, he builds worlds whol­ly con­struct­ed over the course of a page, invit­ing his read­ers in to sus­pend dis­be­lief as he weaves togeth­er a real­i­ty both like and dif­fer­ent from our own. The mun­dane become alive in his writ­ing. Whether it’s a sto­ry about look­ing for drugs, search­ing for love, cel­e­brat­ing a birth­day, or deal­ing with a mis­car­riage, his rich char­ac­ters and nuanced descrip­tions breathe new life into these every­day topics.