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Michigan State University

Interpreting the Interior: Israeli Writer and Filmmaker Etgar Keret (exhibition): Author Quotes in the Exhibit

Research guide created in conjunction with library exhibit.

Fighting to be Normal

“We want to fight for the ability to be normal.  We want to fight for the ability to talk about what’s private. We want to fight for the ability to just, you know, talk about our emotions and not our emotions in a national context.”

Keret, Etgar.  “Profile: Popular Israeli Author Etgar Keret.” Interview by Neda Ulaby.  Weekend Sunday Edition. Natl. Public Radio. 12 Dec. 2004. 

Translation from Hebrew to English

“The problem is that English is 30% longer than Hebrew.  In Hebrew you can really construct very short sentences.  I know this because I work with two very, very creative translators.  And many times I don’t want them to be loyal to the text, but to the meter.  For example, I have a story that begins with a series of compliments about a guy; but when my translator translated the story, it didn’t work because she wanted to translate the word, but the rhythm didn’t work.  So, I told her, ‘Forget about the word!  It should be ta-ta-ta.’ ”

Keret, Etgar.  “Interview with Etgar Keret.”  By Daniela Hurezanu.  10 Apr. 2010.  Words Without Borders: The Online Magazine for International Literature. 

Interpreting the Gaps

“I have a great love for the gaps that allow for freedom of interpretation.  It’s those gaps that attract me to art.  In literature I’m afraid of explaining too much: what a person’s voice sounded like and what he looked like.  That’s what I like about comics, that the reader has to fill in the gaps by himself.  Gaps are important in films too, especially in video-clips.  People can fill them in as they like.  My great ambition is to create structures which can be interpreted in a lot of ways, each one having something true about it.”

Keret, Etgar.  “What’s So Wonderful About This Game? Postmodernism in Question:  A Radio Symposium with Avram Heffner, Nurit Zarchi, Itamar Levy, Etgar Keret and Tsruya Shalev.  Moderator: Avraham Balaban.”  Modern Hebrew Literature 15(1995): 3-6. 

Inconsiderate Territory

“I think that many authors chose writing because it creates a reality in which they are in control, but with me it is the other way around.  Being a second generation to Holocaust survivors, I was aware, even as a child, of the pain and suffering my parents had been through and therefore always tried to make them and everybody else around me happy.  The discovery of fiction was, for me, a discovery of territory in which I didn’t need to be considerate.  I could just let go and see what happened.”

Keret, Etgar. “A Conversation with Etgar Keret.” By Michelle Johnson. World Literature Today 82.6 (2008): 16-18. Literature Resource Center


Defrosting Hebrew

“…Hebrew is a very unique language.  It wasn’t spoken for 2,000 years, and then they kind of immediately defrosted it.  …So basically, what happened was when people started using the language, they needed many words fast because, you know, they were missing 2,000 years’ worth of words.  So it’s a little bit like a rollercoaster.  You started, eh, sentencing the biblical speech and you end it in something that sounds like a rap song.  I can give you the simplest example.  You know, when two Israelis want to part, they say ‘b’seder yalla bye’. B’seder is in Hebrew, like it’s a word that Abraham would understand, yalla is in Arabic, and bye is in English.  So I think that the easiest thing that kind of—the language, it reflects on this chaotic nature of the Israeli; it’s like the kind of those fusion kitchen stuff that we have both in our identity and in our language, and this stuff doesn’t translate to other languages.”

Keret, Etgar.  “Israel’s Etgar Keret on Writing and Film.”  Interview by Robert Siegel.  All Things Considered.  Natl. Public Radio.  1 May 2008.