Dark and funny Israeli writer feels at home among Turkish fans

ISTANBUL

Happy to be back on Turkish soil after a long absence, acclaimed Israeli novelist and filmmaker Etgar Keret praised the common ground he finds with his fans in Türkiye, adding that his cultural capital Istanbul is one of his “favorite places in the world to talk.”

“I always like going to Istanbul, I must say especially as a writer, because the readers here are very warm,” the writer, 54, told Anadolu Agency in an interview ahead of a signing event. in an Asian bookshop in Istanbul. side.

“They are both sophisticated and generous, but not pretentious. So I really like having events here. It really is one of my favorite places in the world to talk,” said Keret, who is also known for his dark and funny short stories, graphic novels and screenplays for film and television as well as directing.

After a two-year delay due to the coronavirus, Keret was in Istanbul in May as part of Istanbul’s Pera Museum film screenings by the popular author.

“There are places where, say, commercially I can sell more copies, but here I feel the readers are more engaged and more like a cult of sorts,” he said. “It’s not even a question of how many people read me but there are people who read me and it’s important to them.”

The writer was a frequent visitor to Istanbul a decade ago, as his fans formed long queues outside bookstores where he held book signings. But Keret said the launch of his film and TV directing career, as well as coronavirus, put his trips to the city on hold.

“It’s almost mythological to come back, because I have friends here and I have people I’m close to,” he said.

Explaining his popularity among Turkish fans, Keret said the lives you can see in his stories are “not that different from the lives of Turks”.

Noting that the angle of his stories could be “very different from German or American life,” he linked Turkey and Israel as two countries that the faithful and the laity call home, where they “live together and there is tensions between them.

Asked about his favorite Turkish writers, Keret admits he hasn’t delved into contemporary Turkish literature for several years, but said, “I read and admire Orhan Pamuk,” Turkey’s Nobel Prize-winning novelist. He also praised award-winning German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, perhaps best known for the bicultural drama Head On and his musical documentary Crossing the Bridge.

Writing during COVID-19

According to Keret, writing during the coronavirus “was a very interesting time for a writer” like him, saying it “felt a bit like a speculative fiction story.”

“I saw it (as) a kind of opportunity. It’s like living in this big heavy boat that’s sailing somewhere and the coronavirus means you put an anchor (down) and you stop”, “And that means when we start moving again, we can change course. Maybe we can improve it.”

“I actually had these hopes…that (the pandemic) would make us feel more like a community, understanding that we’re meeting challenges together,” he said. “I actually felt there was some kind of social opportunity, but after two years it didn’t turn out the way I hoped.”

According to Keret, there is a sort of “very existential point in human existence,” in COVID-19.

“It inspired me and I’m sure it inspired a lot of other people,” he said, quoting dark TV comedy Severance, which tells the story “of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal life,” according to the movie database site IMDb.

“I don’t think they would have done it before corona, even though it has nothing to do with the virus,” he added, referring to the show’s emphasis on the isolation, similar to the COVID-19 restrictions that people across the world have gone through.

“That kind of instability and anxiety that we’ve felt through the coronavirus, it’s almost like a metaphor for what we feel in contemporary human society,” he said.

Minimalist stories

Keret’s 1998 short story Kneller’s Happy Campers, which was adapted into the 2006 film Wristcutters: A Love Story, by Croatian director Goran Dukic, has become a cult film for moviegoers, as it is set in the underworld. of the. Among his works that made it to the big screen, Keret also cited his short story Crazy Glue, which has been adapted into both comedy and horror films.

According to Keret, the reason his works are widely adapted is that they are “very minimalist”, which really means that when they are adapted, there is “a lot of space to add their own mood, color”. .

Exhibition in honor of the late Holocaust survivor mother

Keret’s next project will focus on his late mother, Orna, a Holocaust survivor from Poland who died two years ago.

The project “basically collects kind of fragments, memories that I have, a form of her, of my childhood,” he said. It is expected to be “some kind of exhibition”.

He said he wouldn’t want to start it in Israel. “Because I would feel too vulnerable. But I think a good starting point would be Germany or Poland.

“So I think maybe it would be natural to take that kind of story back to where she grew up, to the reality that she knew,” he added.

The project is expected to debut later this year or next year, he said, adding, “I can say I’m pretty much done with the text.”

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