Don’t read Tel Aviv Noir if you have insomnia: these gripping stories will keep you reading all night long and into the morning. Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron, the volume’s editors, have grouped the stories by theme — Encounters, Estrangements and Corpses — and by neighborhood.
I thought I could start my evening by just reading one stand-out tale. “Outside was the tumult of all the places that Tel Aviv had put out of its mind, that base urgency of life, that multiplicity of meagerness.” Sapir Prize-winning poet and novelist Shimon Adaf’s story “My Father’s Kingdom” is about a student of an esoteric Tel Aviv poet whose writing foretells “the downfall of the city through fragments of the tales of residents who were already suffocating under the weight of the everyday.” Adaf’s work here encompasses themes of urban change and decay and displacement of the poor, as well as the “suitable mystery.”
Gadi Taub’s piece “Sleeping Mask” about a woman forced into prostitution by her father’s gambling debts — and the man who introduces her to this line of work and comes to love her — is almost like a modern fable, heartbreaking in its intensity. Gon Ben Ari’s “Clear Recent History” tells of a private investigator figuring out how “the Name”(Hashem), a mysterious computer account, has forced one writer and then thirty more to masturbate in front of a computer screen each day, losing all their vital creative juices to porn apps whose names can’t be printed here. “Aren’t writers supposed to be able to jerk off using just their imagination?” is answered quite cleverly in Ben Ari’s envisioning.
But there is more — Deakla Keydar’s “Slow Cooking” brings a fractured family together for a Sabbath meal with a refugee from Sierra Leone, picked up in Levinsky Park. Yoav Katz’s “The Tour Guide” brings tourists to crime sites while, unbeknownst to the tour leader, new crimes are being planned and committed, gaining him more customers and danger. In “The Expendables” by Gai Ad, a business relationship goes sour when greed takes over. The ghost of a fictional Yiddish writer meets up with a modern Tel Aviv writer at a Yiddish poet’s funeral in Matan Hermoni’s “Women” and Lavie Tidhar’s “The Time-Slip Detective” takes place in both this Tel Aviv and the one Theodore Herzl imagined in Old-New Land, Herzlberg.
And, if you really don’t want to sleep, the editors put their own stories “Allergies” and “Center” dead last.
Tel Aviv Noir is part of a series of Noir books about cities around the world and being published concurrently with Teheran Noir. For anyone interested in some of Israel’s best younger writers, as well as the seamy underside of its most populous city, Tel Aviv Noir will keep your adrenaline flowing at any hour.
- Searching for Osama: On Writing a Book No One Wants to Buy by Lavie Tidhar
- Only in Israel by David Ehrlich
- Wimps: From a Memoir of Service in an Israeli Infantry Unit by Haim Watzman
Read Beth Kissileff’s interview with Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron here.