Sunday, March 15, 2015

Most Amazing Pearls Of Wisdom From An Evening With Writer Etgar Keret

I've been psyched out to attend a talk with Etgar Keret ever since I saw the event on our class schedule.  While I haven't read any of his fiction in full, the commentaries about Israel politics and society that have appeared in the New York Times and Haaretz over the years have always been moving, hilarious, and devastating.  While my own relationship to Israel and the conflict has ebbed and flowed over the years, his deeply insightful and self-reflective work has always given me peace of mind that my values are reflected in certain places within that society.

And there have seldom been greater times when that kind of peace of mind has been so necessary than after a visit to Hebron this morning.  In case you aren't familiar, Hebron is a deeply divided city in the West Bank where tensions between Jewish settlers and Muslim residents have come to such a head that the military has effectively put a moratorium on human activity in much of the Old City.  The result is an eerie, post-apocalyptic feeling that feels like something out a dystopian sci-fi novel.

Feeling exhausted both physically and mentally, I was relieved to go into a talk with a someone who has absolutely no illusions about the reality of the conflict, and yet still endeavors to find hope and beauty through his work (with a rueful sense of humor).  And Etgar Keret did not disappoint.

Here are some of his more delightful sound bites:

On the Purpose of Fiction:
Etgar Keret (left) reading one of his short stories
to students at Hebrew Untion College in Jerusalem

"Why do we need stories?...cutting a salad is more important than writing a story."

"Religious belief and art...make existence less arbitrary."

Fiction allows readers to "enter worlds without risk, to places that wouldn't be safe in real life."

"When you write a story or read a work of fiction you are exercising your empathy muscle."

"I find literature for the power that it has no function."

"I don't know if fiction is a place of truth--it is a place of sincerity. You can be yourself."

"[My favorite art] shows there is something good in humanity...If I want to know that life sucks and people are terrible I just have to look out my window."

On the Writing Process

Writing is "the gap between what you feel and what you are able to articulate."

"Writing is an unzipping process--you might find somebody else inside."

"Stories were not made to be perfect or smart...stories are meant to communicate something that you really need to communicate."

"If you lock yourself in a room for 10 hours a day, what are you writing about?  The cause is life; the effect is story--life is the engine."

"Everyone has at least one masterpiece in them."

On Politics and Identity as a Jewish vs. Israeli Writer

"If identity is a travel brochure, I prefer the Jewish one to the Israeli one."

"[Naftali Bennet says to Israelis] 'stop apologizing'--then what are we going to do on Yom Kippur?"

"Nationality doesn't have the power of heritage...heritage cannot be taken away."

"Jewish writers..,don't have to be pragmatic or provide answers."

"Asking the question is enough even if you don't know the answer."

"Always happy to hear about good things I wrote about [the 2014 war in Gaza]--it balances out all the death threats."

"Peace, unlike war doesn't have the the subtext of responsibility."

No comments:

Post a Comment