Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories - Etgar Keret

First published 2001; cover shown is the 2003 Picador (Aust) softcover edition. Cover art by Raanan Elizov, cover design by Steve Snider.

Again, this has nothing to do with mystery fiction, but this collection of short stories so impressed me that I had to include it here.

Etgar Keret is one of the top bestselling writers from Israel; this is the first English language collection of his short stories, taken from previous collections published between 1992 to 2002.

Each story is quite short, but usually intense, funny, sad, violent and crazy. There are liars with wings masquerading as angels, a village in Uzbekistan built right at the mouth of Hell, a uterus so beautiful it must be displayed, soldiers caught up in the Middle East conflict, stories of the Holocaust, the death of a cat, a hitman who is asked to kill the one man he respects, mysterious disappearances of school children, and an alternative afterlife for suiciders.

One of my favourites was The Flying Santinis, in which a young boy decides to join the circus and become a trapeze artiste. Papa Luigi, head of the Santini circus family, tests the boy's courage, strength and nimbleness. Then he asks the boy to demonstrate his agility: he must touch his toes with his legs straight. Five seconds later Papa Luigi's caravan echoes with the sound of a disk slipping between the L2 and L3 vertebrae. His circus dreams dashed, the boy lies in his hospital bed, only to be told by Papa Luigi that he could have bent his knees; he wouldn't have said anything.

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