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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door
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on 14 October 2013
Suddenly, a Knock at the Door, Etgar Keret's first new collection in ten years, offers a masterful selection of short stories. Like those in his previous collections, the stories in Suddenly... are delightful little tales of the drama and absurdity of everyday life. These are extraordinary stories of seemingly average folks and the strange and surreal circumstances in which they find themselves.

While Suddenly... is full of so many great stories that it is hard to pick favourites, there are a number of tales that particularly stand out. In `Simyon' a young woman confronts the death of her forgotten husband, while in `Unzipping' the truth about a boyfriend's character is revealed. Both of these stories offer surprisingly insights into the nature of humanity and the quality of relationships. Many of Keret's stories are woven around the mundane spectres of daily life but some of them are quite delightfully, magically odd. In `What, of this Goldfish, Would You Ask' a documentary filmmaker stumbles into a lonely Russian's contemporary Aladdin-style dilemma, while `Haemorrhoid' presents a surprising take on the nature of power and affliction. These are just four favourites from the collection but there are many more sublime stories to be enjoyed.

It's hard to spot Keret himself among the disparate characters who people this collection, although several of the stories are about writers. In `Suddenly, a Knock on the Door', the title story and first in the collection, a writer has to ward off increasingly aggressive demands that he produces a new story. Hopefully there were fewer pistols involved in the writing of this book. In `Creative Writing' Aviad's girlfriend experiences unexpected success with her story writing while Aviad himself can't seem to master the ending. In `What Animal Are You?' a writer has to satisfy the demands of fame while still preserving the innocent imagination of his son. Perhaps these stories shed some light on Keret's creative process; certainly they're very entertaining.

Keret's stories have always been on the particularly short side of short stories but they are most often finely crafted gems that tell their tales perfectly. While his stories are frequently so good that you might wish they could go on longer, the actual tales tend to reach satisfying, if often surprising, conclusions. It's rare that Keret misses the mark with his story construction and, in fact, there is only one story in this collection that doesn't seem to offer the full picture. `Snot', the one about the visit to the acupuncturist, stubbornly remains a snippet that could go on to greatness but actually just trails off. Still, that is a very minor issue when you consider just how good the other thirty-six stories in Suddenly... are.

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door is an amazing collection of fantastical stories. Keret's stories are by turn poignant and funny, brutal and humane, and always supremely entertaining. These stories are bite-sized treats and the end of the book leaves you yearning for more. I hope the wait for Keret's next collection will be significantly less than ten years.
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on 28 August 2013
"Tell Me A Story" opens this book of short stories, as a writer called Etgar Keret is forced at gunpoint to make up a story on the spot by a home invader. As more characters are introduced - a survey taker, a pizza delivery man, all of whom turn up at his door in succession like in a sitcom - each of them enter his flat, pull out a weapon and demand a story. This sense of playfulness and originality runs through a lot of the short stories in Keret's latest collection, "Suddenly, A Knock On The Door".

Keret's stories move fluidly between literary styles from surrealism, like in the first story, to magical realist like in "Lieland". In this story a man who has told lies his entire life discovers - via a gumball machine - that a land exists where all of his lies are reality. Every unfortunate character from this man's made-up stories lives in Lieland. The handicapped cousin he used as an excuse for being late to work one time? He lives in Lieland. Hundreds of lies made real in this strange land. Other stories in this vein include "Unzipping" where a woman discovers a zip on her boyfriend's tongue and, upon unzipping it, reveals a similar-looking man but with an entirely different personality.

Though these stories are enjoyable for their inventiveness and imagination, Keret's other types of stories involve everyday settings and people to equal effectiveness. "Cheesus Christ" is one such story where a man's dying words in a fast food restaurant sets off a chain of events for everyone involved with the business, centred around the inclusion of a non-cheese hamburger to the menu. In "Teamwork" a father believes that his very young son wants him to kill his mother-in-law (or is that just his imagination and own dark desires?) and concocts a brutal plan of murder. In one of the simplest (conceptually speaking) stories here, "What Do We Have In Our Pockets?", he has his character list what he has in his pockets, and why they're always full. The last line in the story is gently moving and brilliant. In "Healthy Start", a comedic and absurdist story, a lonely man sits and waits in a café each morning for any strangers that look like they're looking for someone and then pretends to be that someone, adopting their identity for the duration of the breakfast.

But the best stories in this collection are the ones that mix surrealism and magical realism into the everyday to create something truly different. "What Animal Are You?" takes the original perspective of an author being filmed by a German film crew, writing the story we're reading while pretending to be really writing and telling the reader about his young son's game of asking people what animal they are. The story takes an unusually heartfelt turn as it becomes clear that this simple game isn't understood by his parents but is by random hookers visiting a lonely widower in a nearby apartment. Then the story becomes deeply unnerving when a horror element is thrown in at the very last moment.

A lot of these stories - and there are a lot, nearly 40 in this collection - are mostly quite short at 4-5 pages each, but contain an astonishing amount of story. So much is going on in them as Keret wastes no time in setting the tone, the characters, and the story that he only needs a few pages to tell an affecting, memorable tale. Which isn't to say that every story here is a triumph: for every well written, imaginative story is another that is trying for the same thing, but not quite accomplishing it. However the stories that do work more than make this collection worth picking up in order to read a unique voice and enormously talented writer creating magic in just a few brief pages over and over again.
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on 13 December 2016
Some interesting stories but often very short so no expectation of character development and therefore not disappointed. Not entirely sure of the point.
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on 5 April 2013
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door - absolutelly brilliant author. He can be sad , he can be sarcastic, he can turn the everyday and make you think of the not so happy endings of his stories. Or just delay the end of the story.I recommend Etgar - great story teller!
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on 23 December 2015
On a Christmas present list so like to think it will be well received.
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on 5 April 2016
Brilliant short stories,
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on 15 November 2013
This book of short stories is great! It's funny, weird, interesting and easy to read before bed!
My first Etgar Keret book, but definetly not my last!
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on 19 August 2013
My husband found these short stories very interesting and were perfect for bedtime reading. Will look for other books by this author.
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on 27 August 2012
Kafkaesque, the writer has a wierd imagination and you can imagine him sitting around the salon as Kafka did, reading to his friends as they delight in his dialogue. Kafka would be amused.
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on 17 April 2012
A gripping range of thought provoking stories that kept me reading from start to finish without a break. Especially enjoyed "Guava " and the soul searching it provoked
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