The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
Israeli writer Etgar Keret is widely regarded as one of the leading figures in contemporary flash fiction. In The Seven Good Years, the author of The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and Suddenly, A Knock on the Door moves for the first time into non-fiction, bringing his signature wit to a collection of personal essays covering the seven years from the birth of his son – Keret and his wife rushing to hospital in the middle of a bombing – and the death of his father from cancer of the tongue. The years in between, both as a father and a son, are full of wonder, frustration and worry.
Aside from being organised more or less chronologically, the pieces are largely unconnected and stand as individual vignettes – when taken together, they give a patchwork effect of a life made up of episodes. Keret reflects on travel, family, religion and the writing life, moving between anecdotes and sketches, cringe comedy (particularly in an excruciating battle of wits with a telemarketer), and absurdist satire of the politics of the turbulent Middle East.
There are some occasions where the sparseness of Keret’s prose almost feels frustrating – Keret writes, for example, about his Holocaust-survivor parents’ relationship, and about how the ever-present threat of bombs and warfare pervades day-to-day Israeli life with a sort of fatalistic abandon – these are themes that warrant more exploration and contemplation, and presenting them as pithy anecdotes felt somewhat unsatisfying. The best pieces, however, are tightly-packed and feel variously like conversations with an old friend, tender moments frozen in time or astonishing pieces of blistering satire. Brevity and craftsmanship blend with insight and observational humour like that of David Sedaris, making The Seven Good Years a vibrant and highly enjoyable read.
Alan Vaarwerk is the editorial assistant for Readings Monthly.