Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » October 2014 » Etgar Keret’s Introduction to Tel Aviv Noir

Etgar Keret’s Introduction to Tel Aviv Noir

To celebrate the release of Tel Aviv Noir, the latest in Akashic’s Noir Series, we’re pleased to bring you a glimpse behind the city’s warm exterior with coeditor Etgar Keret‘s introduction, “The Dark Side of the Bubble.”

New Yorkers: Don’t miss Etgar Keret—along with coeditor Assaf Gavron, Gina B. Nahai (The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.), and Salar Abdoh (Tehran Noir, Tehran at Twilight)—at the New York Public Library on Wednesday, November 5!

The Dark Side of the Bubble

When I was a kid we didn’t have a car. My dad and I didn’t like taking the bus, and preferred to walk. I liked the peace and quiet of walking. Dad liked being able to smoke. Sometimes, when we walked down the neighborhood’s main street together, Y’s car drove by. Y was one of the most famous criminals in the country in those days. He’d pull up and greet my father. He’d ask how he was and how my mother was and offer us a ride. Usually we said no, but once or twice he gave my dad a ride to a meeting on the other side of town.

One night, when I was already in high school, the evening news reported that Y had been arrested as a murder suspect. Dad, who was watching with me, lit a cigarette and shook his head. “This has to be a mistake,” he said. “You know Y. How could they accuse someone so warm and kind of murder?”

Almost thirty years later I found myself sitting with Johnny Temple of Akashic Books at a coffee shop in SoHo. When he asked me to edit the anthology Tel Aviv Noir, I felt a little like my father in front of the television. I wanted to say, “Tel Aviv Noir? This has to be a mistake.” Tel Aviv is one of the happiest, friendliest, most liberal cities in the world. What could possibly be dark about our sunny city, a city nicknamed “The Bubble” due to its sense of complete separation from the violent, conflicted country in which it is situated? Compared to Jerusalem—torn apart, exploding with nationalism, xenophobia, and religious zeal—Tel Aviv has always been an island of sanity and serenity. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my eight-year-old son, who walks to school by himself every day, fearlessly. Stories of crime and sleaziness taking place in my beloved city sounded about as unbelievable to me as the accusations against Y had sounded to my father.

By the way, Y is no longer with us. A bomb attached to the bottom of his car took care of that. But Tel Aviv is still around, and considering and reconsidering the question, I realize that in spite of its outwardly warm and polite exterior, Tel Aviv has quite a bit to hide. At any club, most of the people dancing around you to the sounds of a deep-house hit dedicated to peace and love have undergone extensive automatic-weapons training and a hand-grenade tutorial. This isn’t a conspiracy, my friends, just one of the fringe benefits of a country that institutes mandatory military service.

The workers washing the dishes in the fluorescent-lit kitchen of that same club are Eritrean refugees who have crossed the Egyptian border illegally, along with a group of bedouins smuggling some high-quality hash, which the deejay will soon be smoking on his little podium, right by the busy dance floor filled with drunks, coked-up lawyers, and Ukrainian call girls whose pimp keeps their passports in a safe two streets away.

Don’t get me wrong—Tel Aviv is a lovely, safe city. Most of the time, for most of its inhabitants. But the stories in this collection describe what happens the rest of the time, to the rest of its inhabitants. From one last cup of coffee at a café targeted by a suicide bomber, through repeat visits from a Yiddish-speaking ghost, to an organized tour of mythological crime scenes that goes terribly wrong, the stories of Tel Aviv Noir, edited by Assaf Gavron and myself, reveal the concealed, scarred face of this city that we love so much.



ETGAR KERET was born in Tel Aviv in 1967. He is the author of five collections of short stories, three children’s books, and three graphic novels. His writing has been published in the New Yorker, Zoetrope, and the Paris Review. His books have been translated into thirty-four languages and published in over thirty-eight countries. In 2007, Keret and Shira Geffen won the Cannes Film Festival’s Caméra d’Or Award for their movie Jellyfish. In 2010, Keret received the Chevalier Medallion of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He is the coeditor of Tel Aviv Noir.

Posted: Oct 15, 2014

Category: Akashic Insider | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,