Hello! Happy almost end of August. I’m going to be returning to school soon, but have reviewed a book for your last-minute summer enjoyment. I’ve also provided a list of organizations you could donate to in order to support Ukrainians in need. Please do so if you are able.
The Seven Good Years: A Memoir, by Etgar Keret,
Read by Alex Karpovsky, Translated by Sondra Silverston, Miriam Shlesinger, Jessica Cohen, and Anthony Berris
“Compared to the horrors and cruelty he [Keret’s father] witnessed during [World War II], it’s easy to imagine how his new acquaintances from the underworld must have appeared to him: happy, even compassionate [….] When I try to reconstruct those bedtime stories my father told me years ago, I realize that beyond their fascinating plots, they were meant to teach me something, something about the almost desperate human need to find good in the least likely places. Something about the desire not to beautify reality but to persist in searching for an angle that would put ugliness in a better light, and create affection and empathy for every wart and wrinkle on its scarred face. And here, in Sicily, 63 years after my father left it, as I face a few dozen pairs of riveted eyes, and a lot of empty plastic chairs, that mission suddenly seems more possible than ever.”
This is a memoir about the seven years in the life of Israeli writer Etgar Keret between his son’s birth and his father’s death. It’s also about all of the insights he gains along the way.
The first thing I want to say about this book is that it was written kind of stylized but in a very non-pretentious way—he’d compare things to other things, or use certain rhetorical devices, and you’d worry that it’d become self-important and contrived, only for it avoid this trap and retain its sincerity. The author’s ability to stay grounded and not devolve into self-aggrandizing word-play/stylistic show-offery is a great accomplishment in and of itself.
The second thing I want to say about this book is that it’s made up of a bunch of essays that were written throughout the years, so it reads more like a collection of short narratives than an overarching memoir. Even so, it works very well. The essays were very funny and very sad. Some were terrific (one about Etgar Keret dealing with his dad’s impending death in the face of a cabbie’s disgruntlement about being ripped off by another person was especially good).
Keret is also very good at extrapolating things—he’d observe something in his own behavior while playing Angry Birds and then be able to draw more general conclusions about people from it.
Overall, if you’re looking for a wise and humorous collection of essays that actually have substance to them, I’d highly recommend this memoir. It’s short, it’s funny, and it actually has things to say.
As promised, here’s a list of organizations you an donate to in order to support Ukrainians in need:
UNCHR Refugee Agency—Provides refugees with food, water, health support, and assistance in rebuilding damaged houses.
Donate here: https://give.unrefugees.org/
Save The Children: Gives emergency aid to children in Ukraine. Donate here: https://www.savethechildren.org/us/where-we-work/ukraine
World Health Organization: Helps treat injured Ukrainians and provides life-saving medicines.
Donate here: https://www.ukraine.who.foundation/
Direct Relief: Provides trauma kits, insulin, and other important medical supplies to Ukrainians.
Donate here: https://www.directrelief.org/emergency/ukraine-crisis/