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The Seven Good Years
Cover of The Seven Good Years
The Seven Good Years
A Memoir
A brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a "genius" (The New York Times) and master storyteller. With illustrations by Jason Polan.
The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret's son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry. Lev is born in the midst of a terrorist attack. Etgar's father gets cancer. The threat of constant war looms over their home and permeates daily life.
What emerges from this dark reality is a series of sublimely absurd ruminations on everything from Etgar's three-year-old son's impending military service to the terrorist mind-set behind Angry Birds. There's Lev's insistence that he is a cat, releasing him from any human responsibilities or rules. Etgar's siblings, all very different people who have chosen radically divergent paths in life, come together after his father's shivah to experience the grief and love that tie a family together forever. This wise, witty memoir—Etgar's first nonfiction book published in America, and told in his inimitable style—is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.
From the Hardcover edition.
A brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a "genius" (The New York Times) and master storyteller. With illustrations by Jason Polan.
The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret's son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry. Lev is born in the midst of a terrorist attack. Etgar's father gets cancer. The threat of constant war looms over their home and permeates daily life.
What emerges from this dark reality is a series of sublimely absurd ruminations on everything from Etgar's three-year-old son's impending military service to the terrorist mind-set behind Angry Birds. There's Lev's insistence that he is a cat, releasing him from any human responsibilities or rules. Etgar's siblings, all very different people who have chosen radically divergent paths in life, come together after his father's shivah to experience the grief and love that tie a family together forever. This wise, witty memoir—Etgar's first nonfiction book published in America, and told in his inimitable style—is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Year One

    Suddenly, the Same Thing

    I just hate terrorist attacks," the thin nurse says to the older one. "Want some gum?"

    The older nurse takes a piece and nods. "What can you do?" she says. "I also hate emergencies."

    "It's not the emergencies," the thin one insists. "I have no problem with accidents and things. It's the terrorist attacks, I'm telling you. They put a damper on everything."

    Sitting on the bench outside the maternity ward, I think to myself, She's got a point. I got here just an hour ago, all excited, with my wife and a neat-freak taxi driver who, when my wife's water broke, was afraid it would ruin his upholstery. And now I'm sitting in the hallway, feeling glum, waiting for the staff to come back from the ER. Everyone but the two nurses has gone to help treat the people injured in the attack. My wife's contractions have slowed down, too. Probably even the baby feels this whole getting-born thing isn't that urgent anymore. As I'm on my way to the cafeteria, a few of the injured roll past on squeaking gurneys. In the taxi on the way to the hospital, my wife was screaming like a madwoman, but all these people are quiet.

    "Are you Etgar Keret?" a guy wearing a checked shirt asks me. "The writer?" I nod reluctantly. "Well, what do you know?" he says, pulling a tiny tape recorder out of his bag. "Where were you when it happened?" he asks. When I hesitate for a second, he says in a show of empathy: "Take your time. Don't feel pressured. You've been through a trauma."

    "I wasn't in the attack," I explain. "I just happen to be here today. My wife's giving birth."

    "Oh," he says, not trying to hide his disappointment, and presses the stop button on his tape recorder. "Mazal tov." Now he sits down next to me and lights himself a cigarette.

    "Maybe you should try talking to someone else," I suggest as an attempt to get the Lucky Strike smoke out of my face. "A minute ago, I saw them take two people into neurology."

    "Russians," he says with a sigh, "don't know a word of Hebrew. Besides, they don't let you into neurology anyway. This is my seventh attack in this hospital, and I know all their shtick by now." We sit there a minute without talking. He's about ten years younger than I am but starting to go bald. When he catches me looking at him, he smiles and says, "Too bad you weren't there. A reaction from a writer would've been good for my article. Someone original, someone with a little vision. After every attack, I always get the same reactions: 'Suddenly I heard a boom,' 'I don't know what happened,' 'Everything was covered in blood.' How much of that can you take?"

    "It's not their fault," I say. "It's just that the attacks are always the same. What kind of original thing can you say about an explosion and senseless death?"

    "Beats me," he says with a shrug. "You're the writer."

    Some people in white jackets are starting to come back from the ER on their way to the maternity ward. "You're from Tel Aviv," the reporter says to me, "so why'd you come all the way to this dump to give birth?"

    "We wanted a natural birth. Their department here—"

    "Natural?" he interrupts, sniggering. "What's natural about a midget with a cable hanging from his belly button popping out of your wife's vagina?" I don't even try to respond. "I told my wife," he continues, "'If you ever give birth, only by Caesarean section, like in America. I don't want some baby stretching you out of shape for me.' Nowadays, it's only in primitive countries like this that women give birth like animals. Yallah, I'm going to work." Starting to get up, he tries one more time. "Maybe you have something...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 20, 2015
    In this slim, episodic set of recollections, acclaimed Israeli fiction writer Keret (The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God) covers the span between the birth of his son and the death of his father. In spare, wry prose, he recounts his child’s birth, the same day as a terrorist attack, and sums up the violent underpinnings of current Israeli life when he tells a disappointed journalist that “the attacks are always the same. What can you say about an explosion and senseless death?” This apolitical, irreligious, and wry fatalism recalls a great deal of Jewish humor, a meditation on the absurd and vital. The initial courtship of Keret’s parents, both Holocaust survivors, is lovingly described with a thirst for life that reflects the vitality of Israel’s earliest decades. Keret thinks and feels deeply, but he makes heavy points with a light touch, describing a childhood friend as having “the smiling but tough expression of an aging child who had already learned a thing or two about this stupid world.” While the short chapters move in linear fashion, each stands firmly on its own.. Without overplaying any single aspect of a complicated life in complicated times in a complicated place, Keret’s lovely memoir retains its essential human warmth, demonstrating that with memoirs, less can often be more.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2015
    A writer's life amid tremors of war. In his debut book of nonfiction, Israeli writer Keret (Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, 2012, etc.) chronicles seven years bracketed by two momentous events: the birth of his son, Lev, and his father's death from cancer. The author represents each year with a handful of musings, some serious, others frothy. He recounts an absurd conversation with a telemarketer, for example; silly dedications he makes up during Hebrew Book Week; growing a mustache as a birthday present for his son; his lackluster efforts to exercise; and Lev's many cute remarks. The best pieces are quietly moving. After a neighbor asked him if he had considered whether his son, then 3, would join the army, Keret was surprised that his wife had already made her decision. "I don't want him to go into the army," she announced. Would she rather have other people's children fight instead? Keret asked heatedly. "I'm saying that we could have reached a peaceful solution a long time ago, and we still can," she replied, but not if Israeli leaders "know that most people are like you: they won't hesitate to put their children's lives into the government's irresponsible hands." One day as they were driving, an air-raid siren blared. Lev refused to lie down on the side of the road until Keret devised a game of "Pastrami Sandwich," with he and his wife as the two slices of bread and Lev the pastrami between them. It was such fun that Lev wanted to play Pastrami "if there's another siren...but what if there aren't any more sirens ever?" he worried. "I think there'll be at least one or two more," Keret assured him. After a Polish architect built the author a minimalist house in Warsaw, reflecting his stories' spare structures, Keret sat in the kitchen eating jam "sour with memories." His mother grew up in Warsaw and became an orphan after the Nazis killed her family. Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2015

    Award-winning Israeli author Keret's first venture into nonfiction spans the seven years between the birth of his son Lev and the death of his father. In typical Keret style (Suddenly a Knock on the Door), this collection of short stories set in modern war-torn Israel combines satire, dark humor, and imagination to portray the struggles of everyday Israeli existence by those who know that each day could be their last. The writing grows personal when Keret meditates on growing up in a Jewish household and recalls taking his son to the playground, where discussions with other parents ranged from diaper rash to concerns of allowing his three-year-old to grow up to become a soldier. The concluding story tells of entertaining Lev while finding shelter as air raid sirens blare the warning of an impending attack. VERDICT Fans of Keret's prose will not be disappointed. Readers new to his work will be drawn into unimaginable circumstances in which survival is not taken for granted but chronicled in intelligent, compassionate, sarcastic, and sometimes absurdly hilarious stories. [See Prepub Alert, 12/15/14.]--Lorraine Ravis, Monmouth Schs., ME

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Memoir
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