reflective

Etgar Keret’s reflections on creating fiction as an escape

Nothing more to add to this:

What I feel about fiction is that it’s removed from life, that nothing in it is real, the characters can die or have wings. For me it’s a great release. I’m the kind of person who thinks about the consequences of his actions. Especially as the youngest son of two Holocaust survivors. One of the first things I knew about my mother was that her mother and her brother were murdered in front of her eyes and that a year after that her father was murdered too. She was in the Warsaw ghetto. So from very early on I realized that if my mother were to ask me if I wanted to eat another cucumber, regardless of what I might or might not want, if I said yes, then this woman, whom I loved more than life itself and who had suffered so much, would be happy. And if I said no, then she would not be happy. So the idea was that whatever I felt or did resonated in life, caused people pain or happiness. This gave me a feeling of huge responsibility even as a child – to the extent that sometimes I had to block my own feelings or wishes. When I started writing fiction, suddenly I was allowed to do what I wanted.

But when I read the whole interview, I found some additional gems at the end, when he talks about the Israeli-Palestine conflict (the interview is from August 2014) and how it’s sapped his creative inspiration, he’s only written two opinion pieces since the fighting began, and he thinks hoping for a compromise is better than peace (also, I agree with his feelings on washing dishes):

And ‘compromise’ is not utopian. In Israel many people say we’ll never have peace. Why? Because they’ll always hate us. But you can have a compromise with somebody who hates you. It’s OK! They don’t have to like you. You just have to agree that you’ll stop trying to kill each other and then you’re getting somewhere.

I also wrote about how the feeling is that we’re going in circles, but in fact it’s not really circles, it’s a downward spiral. When we reach the same point, we say ‘Oh, we’ve been here before.’ But we’re not where we’ve been before; we’re in a worse place. I am trying to build a case for this. This thing that looks like repetition is not really repetition but descent. When you make a mistake and you do something terrible, it’s a tragedy. But when you keep making the same mistake and horrible things happen, then your claim of innocence disappears.

I must say, I love writing fiction; I hate writing opinions. It’s just contrary to everything that attracts me to writing. What I like about writing is that it has no consequences in the real world. With non-fiction you introduce this enemy, this feeling of responsibility. Among the madder responses to my pieces were: ‘We hope your kid dies from cancer,’ or ‘We should throw your kid out of a plane over Gaza without a parachute,’ or ‘We took all your books and threw them in the garbage bin because it disgusts us to see your name on the cover.’ So it’s a different kind of dialogue. When I write fiction, it’s as though I’m floating in air. When I write opinion, it’s as though I’m washing dishes. I hate it and the only reason I do it is I don’t feel I have a choice.

Usually my wife makes fun of me. Every morning I wake up and I say I have this idea for a film, for music, a TV series, an app; anything, you know, it doesn’t matter. Every morning, I say, so it’s this story about a movie star who goes to have a vasectomy and the doctor steals his balls and sells them to Russian mafia guys. . . Every morning! But since this war started, I don’t have any ideas whatsoever.

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