erasing clouds

Book Review: Etgar Keret's The Nimrod Flip-Out

by anna battista

This new anthology by Etgar Keret, one of Israel's best writers and screenwriters, contains 32 short “surrealist” stories. It opens with "Fatso", a tale about a mysterious girlfriend who, at night, turns into a bald guy with a beer belly and a passion for football. The title story is about three friends, who start “flipping out” one after the other and believe the only way to stop this from happening is to live the rest of their lives taking care of the their dead friend Nimrod; "For Only 9.99 (Incl. Tax and Postage)" is about naïve Nachum, who, through postal order, obtains a book that allows him to grasp the meaning of life; in “Shooting Tuvia” the narrator’s father tries to get rid of the family dog which incredibly keeps on coming back, even when they shoot him in the head.

Everything is possible in Keret’s stories from the boy who grows up while his parents shrink, to the couple who give birth to a pony or the woman who opens a petrol station in her back garden, without her husband realising it. Everything is terrible, like the fate of a woman killed in a suicide bomb attack in whose body a doctor finds something rather unexpected; everything is tragicomic, like the story of the man who orders talking fish at a beachside restaurant and indeed gets a fish that can talk, but is deeply depressed.

Etgar Keret was born in Israel in 1967 from Holocaust survivors. His first short story collection, Pipelines, was published in 1992 and was followed by four graphic novels and a screenplay. Pipelines also included a tale entitled “Pipes”, about a man who reaches heaven through a bizarre construction of intricate pipes that he himself has built. In a way, Keret has found in writing his own ‘pipe’, his own way not to escape from the reality, but to stay sane. There are other volumes of short stories by Keret recently published in the UK, The Bus Driver who Wanted to be God (Toby Press) and, in collaboration with Samir el-Youssef, Gaza Blues (David Paul Books).

Like them, The Nimrod Flip-Out is a witty, paradoxical and extraordinary book about Israeli anti-heroes and about surviving the tragedy of reality through the magic of literature. “According to Miron, after He created the world, God stayed awfully complacent for a couple of million years,” Keret writes in one of the stories, “Until Miron came along all of a sudden, and started asking questions, and God broke out in a sweat. Because God could tell straight off that, unlike the rest of humanity, Miron was no pushover.” Like Miron, Keret is definitely no pushover: God’d better be careful.


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