etgar keret

On Stories

...the idea is that you kind of look reality straight in the face, you know - doesn't matter how ugly it is - and you try to find humanity in it. You try to find beauty in it. You try to find hope in it. So you cannot beautify it. But at the same time, you should find these tiny things that - you know, that would make, sometimes, a very violent and unhappy occasion still human and emotional.

~ Etgar Keret, in his great interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air

First Do No Harm

I've never been able to quite articulate this experience I walk around with but I suspect anyone who has lived with trauma might understand it. I have many emotions and at the same time I'm very sensitive to the pain of others. I don't want to impose or somehow make their pain worse so I tend to hide my feelings. As a result, I've struggled with this notion - how can I be the full expression of myself without causing harm? This from the Israeli author Etgar Keret's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air offers insight:

GROSS: Since your father survived the Holocaust literally in a hole and your mother managed to survive in the Warsaw Ghetto - although her parents did not - when you were growing up as their child, did you think that you weren't allowed to experience pain or sadness because your sadness, your pain couldn't compare? It was like nothing compared to what they experienced as children.

KERET: Well, I felt that I was allowed to experience. But I made an extra effort to hide it from my parents, you know? I think that by reflex I felt that - you know, that they had suffered so much that the least I could do would be not to add to the pain that they've experienced in their lifetime. And I think that there's something about these attitudes - that it also kind of pushed me toward writing because what happened was I kind of had this very strong superego that - you know, it started with my parents. But it continued with the entire society - that I was always very much aware of what people wanted of me. And I didn't want to make them feel unhappy.

But at the same time, there was kind of a very strong id under it that wanted all kind of things that I couldn't express. And fiction suddenly became this place where I could write about all my desires, but nobody would have to pay a price for it. Nobody would be unhappy if I would eat five desserts or punch the people who deserved punching or kiss the people who deserved to be kissed, you know? So there was something very liberating about it, you know? Fiction became this kind of, like, padded cell where I could run and hit my head against the wall without kind of causing any harm - not to the wall and neither to my head.