Etgar Keret, the man more than perhaps anyone else living or dead who has made flash fiction respectable internationally, is back with his first new collection in a decade – and it satisfies on just about every level, providing the kind of fantastical, odd, knockabout laugh-out-loud thrills and spills you’d expect whilst at the same time refining the Keret pallet enough for you to see that he isn’t finished developing himself, still has a ways to go, still has things he wants to say and ideas he wants to explore.
Suddenly a Knock on the Door contains 37 stories, many no longer than a handful of pages, some, the longest, no more than ten or twelve pages. Keret enjoys the hypothetical, likes delving deep into the kind of situation that might come up in a casual conversation (the title story for instance concerns a writer held at ransom and seems to turn on the kind of coin you’d find in Italo Calvino’s pocket). The point at which many writers might draw conclusion often provides Keret with his best jumping off points (‘Lieland’ for instance concerns an alternative dimension where all lies go, accessed through a hole in the ground). Keret’s characters exist in a world of failed romances (‘Healthy Start’, ‘Grab the Cuckoo by the Tail’), petty revenges (‘Teamwork’, ‘Creative Writing’), offbeat sexual dalliances (‘Actually, I’ve Had Some Phenomenal Hard-ons Lately’, ‘Unzipping’) and light touch political allegory (such as the exquisite ‘Pick a Colour’).
Keret, for me, really comes into his own, however, when he takes the reader on a journey whose end you could not possibly suspect in a million years. ‘One Step Beyond’, for instance, is worth the price of admission alone, concerning the personal hell constructed for a career assassin (for me, this story is the test – pick up this book, read this story – it’s on p196 – if you are not quite literally blown away, Keret is not for you). But there are many other joys to be had – from the meta-hilarity of ‘The Story, Victorious’ (which opens ‘This story is the best story in the book’) and its companion-piece ‘The Story, Victorious Pt 2’ which runs, in its entirety:
‘But if one day, out of nostalgia, you suddenly want the story back, it will always be happy to oblige’
to the delightfully disgusting and Will Self-y ‘Haemorrhoid’ (the only difference between Keret and Self being Keret does in three pages what Self would do in three hundred).
All told, a must for fans of the short story, a must for fans of flash fiction, a must for anyone who likes to laugh and be entertained by crafty tales well told, a must for any right thinking person who likes a good book.
Any Cop?: Yes, yes, yes and yes. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 10 years for the next collection eh?