The Arty Semite

Watching Etgar Keret at Sundance

By Renee Ghert-Zand

YANAI YECHIEL

With so many great films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week, it’s impossible to focus on them all. But it would be shame to miss “What Do We Have In Our Pockets,” a whimsical, endearing animated four-minute short by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Goran Dukic and based on a short story by Israeli writer Etgar Keret.

“What Do We Have In Our Pockets,” is from Keret’s “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door” collection, published in English translation in 2012. It’s about how the inordinately large number of items a young man carries around in his pockets leads to a love story. “Be prepared,” is basically the narrator’s motto and the take-away lesson. It’s also a fun testament to the virtues of clutter.

The actors are director-screenwriter Azazel Jacobs and Diaz Jacobs, and the visual style is part hipster, part children’s “I Spy” books. See for yourself:

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Keret and Englander Nominated for Award

By Renee Ghert-Zand

YANAI YECHIEL
Israeli author Etgar Keret.

Israeli writer Etgar Keret and American author Nathan Englander have both been shortlisted for the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the biggest prize in the world for a short story collection. Keret was nominated for “Suddenly a Knock on the Door,” and Englander received a nod for “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.”

There are a total of six finalists for the award. The other four are Kevin Barry of Ireland, Fiona Kidman of New Zealand, Sarah Hall of the UK, and Lucia Perillo of the U.S. This is Keret’s second time being shortlisted, and Englander has two chances of winning the award, since he translated much of Keret’s collection — and if a translation wins, the author and the translator share the prize.

This is the eighth year that the €25,000 ($31,500) prize, for the best original short story collection published in English by a living author, is being awarded. It is a gift of the Munster Literature Centre and will presented at the Cork International Short Story Festival in September. The award will be announced this summer, as early as July 5.

The award is named for Frank O’Connor, an Irish author from Cork, who produced more than 150 works in his lifetime, before dying in Dublin at age 62 in 1966. Previous winners have been Haruki Murakami (2006), Jhumpa Lahiri (2008) and Edna O’Brien (2011).

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Getting Rid of Journalists in Haaretz's Third 'Writers Edition'

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Author Etgar Keret with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Tal Cohen.

It’s become a tradition since 2009 that in honor of Israel’s Hebrew Book Week, Haaretz publishes its “Writers Edition.” For this unique edition, all the paper’s reporters disappear and are replaced by well-known Israeli, Middle Eastern, Jewish and Jew-ish authors and poets. This year, 53 noted writers cover everything from breaking news to sports to the weather report.

The depressing main headline, “Netanyahu says there’s no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” is for a political interview author Etgar Keret did with the Prime Minister. The great Israeli poet Natan Zach writes an opinion piece on why he thinks Gilad Shalit will never return home. Nathan Englander gets an exclusive interview with Tony Kushner, the first time he has spoken publicly since the controversy over his receiving an honorary degree from CUNY. On the lighter side, Nicole Krauss reflects on her nostalgia for brick and mortar book stores, and Dorit Rabinyan tries her hand at sportswriting.

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Out and About: Jason Schwartzman on 'Bored to Death'; Al Pacino on Broadway

By Ezra Glinter

Joan Marcus

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A Graphic Account of the Israeli Countryside

By Ezra Glinter

The past year has seen a bumper crop of Jewish-themed graphic novels, with subjects ranging from the recent history of the Middle East (Joe Sacco’s “Footnotes in Gaza”) to the ancient mythology of the Middle East (R. Crumb’s “Genesis”) to the poets of the Beat Generation (Harvey Pekar and Ed Piskor’s “The Beats”).

Still, the torrent of graphic productions continues. Most recently, a portion of “Farm 54,” an Israeli book by siblings Gilad and Galit Seliktar, has been published by Words Without Borders, an online magazine that regularly provides translations of works by international authors. As the pre-amble to the excerpt describes it, “Farm 54”

brings together three semi-autobiographical stories from the childhood, puberty, and early adulthood (military service years) of its female protagonist, growing up in Israel’s rural periphery in the 1970s and 1980s. The stories present the disturbing underground dimensions of adolescence, and the dangers and traumas that subvert the superficial tranquility of youth in the countryside.

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