Tel Aviv Noir by Etgar Keret

Tel Aviv Noir by Etgar Keret

Author:Etgar Keret
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: ebook, book
Publisher: Akashic Books
Published: 2014-08-13T16:00:00+00:00



Tel Kabir


For many days now, I’ve been submerged in the work of esoteric poet Binyamin Za’afrani. The streets of Jaffa are compressed by the month of November. I can see the ugly sycamores wheezing beyond my window, quick exhalations erased by a sudden gust of air coming from the west. How is the passion for another’s writing born. A little over three years ago, Za’afrani’s name was uttered by every pair of lips in Tel Aviv, thanks to the last poem he ever wrote, “5767,” in which he predicted the city’s destruction on Rosh Hashanah of the Jewish year 5767. I read quotes from it in the newspaper, and then the entire work was uploaded to the web. I asked my doctoral advisor to change my dissertation subject. The office door was ajar behind me. I felt eyes watching us, spying from beyond the crack.

He was amused. For two years I’d suffered through articles written by him and others of his generation, on the oeuvre of one of Israel’s most prominent poets: manly rhymes, rhythmic stanzas, the air of revival humming in his throat, between his teeth, mimicking the epic sound of storms and crises, the wild turmoil of the heart. Za’afrani’s lines were, by comparison, dejected. Perhaps because he chose to describe the downfall of the city through fragments of the tales of residents who were already suffocating under the weight of the everyday. A woman discussing her son’s hasty divorce with his brother. A girl doodling her name in the sand, having just learned how to spell it. A beggar finally locating the soup kitchen he’d crossed the city to find. And all the while, horror appears on the sidelines, chiseled onto the windows of sturdy buildings constructed for the welfare of the wealthy. Perhaps that detail caught the public’s miserly attention—Za’afrani’s ability to capture, even in the 1970s, Tel Aviv’s race toward the future. An optimistic city: funds poured into the improvement of infrastructure; apartments purchased for a fortune; babies born into the world—but no one can guarantee they will still have a city another decade from now. Years have collapsed onto that exhausted, hysterical optimism since Za’afrani’s vision was published. “5767” is the most direct of his pieces. The other poems and essays are vaguer. There is knowledge buried in them whose origin I cannot trace back to any known eschatology. Beyond them is an outside presence, threatening to permeate. Each piece is a tiny seismograph. But where would I find my earthquake, that pleasurable vibration I’ve been awaiting within the coarseness of sounds. My advisor laughed. I decided to get a new advisor. The Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva was happy to accept me. It’s a fan of the marginal.


I stared at the poems, perplexed, reading the same stanza over and over again, descending the short stairwell and walking into the nearby grocery store. I survived on overpriced rice, tomatoes, and canned goods. They weren’t cheap either. Each time he overcharged me, the clerk’s face drew into a smile.


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