Tel Aviv Noir

  • Review
October 27, 2014

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.

Relat­ed content:


Read Beth Kissilef­f’s inter­view with Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron here.

Discussion Questions