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Gaza Blues: Different Stories by Samir…

Gaza Blues: Different Stories (2004)

by Samir El-Youssef, Etgar Keret (Author)

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This is a bizarre, but brave little book. Etgar Keret begins it with his strange short fiction, some stories of which I have read elsewhere. My favorite story of Keret's was "Shoshi 3", a clever, unfinished story in the very middle of the book. A longish story by Samir El-Youssef ends the book. That was an odd read for me because it was almost as if I had to have an Israeli give me permission to read a story about angry Palestinians. I actually liked that story ("The Day The Beast Got Thirsty") the best, most likely because it was the most developed of all those short stories in this book. It told of a Palestinian living in Lebanon who wanted to get a visa to any other country, but who deep down knew he'd never get one.

This book is an interesting experiment in Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. I'd like to see more of this. Learning about one another, in all of our humanity and with all of our dirt, is what will eventually bring us together. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jan 7, 2014 |
This book consists of 15 of Keret's short stories and one novella by El-Youssef. Of the Keret stories, only the "Shoshi" stories do not appear in Keret's previously published collections (in English), but the "Shoshi" ones are interesting in that they culminate in a bit of meta-fiction, which I have not seen from Keret before. El-Youssef's story, "The Day the Beast Got Thirsty," is slow-moving compared to Keret's flash fiction, but it manages to say something important about the mental state of a group of people who feel displaced, unwelcome, and impotent. It's not a cohesive collection as such, but the collaboration between the two writers is what's really interesting here and their effort should be not only applauded but repeated. ( )
  -Eva- | Apr 10, 2009 |
"Gaza Blues" is an interesting idea for a book. It contains 15 short stories by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret and a novella by Samir el-Youssef, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and now lives in London. First published in Israel, its significance there is obvious. I bought it after Keret appeared at Jewish Book Week earlier this year, and I am mightily impressed by his writing.

Keret is a practitioner of the short short story. The longest tale in this book is 14 pages, the shortest three. The longest, "For Only $9.99 (Incl. Tax and Postage)", is one of the best, describing what happens to a man who answers a newspaper small ad promising to reveal the meaning of life to him for this price.

Other stories are told from children's perspective, such as "The Son of the Head of the Mossad", who thinks his father owns an earth moving business, or "Shoes", the story of a boy who learns much from the purchase of a pair of adidas trainers.

There is a deadpan humour at work in many of Keret's stories. At JBW he expressed an admiration for Kurt Vonnegut, whose influence shows in stories like "Crazy Glue", in which a wife superglues herself to the ceiling to try and get her husband to pay more attention to her.

Some of the stories are more thoughtful, such as "Surprise Egg", the musings of a doctor who discovers the body of a victim of a suicide bombing is so riddled with cancerous tumours they would have died shortly anyway.

Samir el-Youssef's contribution, "The Day the Beast Got Thirsty" is more rambling, and not just because its 60 pages long rather than 6. It follows Bassem, a pot smoking resident of a Lebanese refugee camp, his encounters with various other residents, and his efforts to get a visa to live in Germany. Bassem's habits give him a very laidback, cynical air compared to his friend the political firebrand Ahmad and give the whole story a slightly unreal quality. Overall, its perhaps a little too rambling, but not bad.

I'd recommend Keret's work to those who like quirky short stories. If you can't find this, three other collections exist: "The Nimrod Flip Out", "Missing Kissinger" and the splendidly titled "The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be G-d". ( )
1 vote Grammath | Nov 23, 2007 |
A combination of deadpan/throwaway sketches, by an Israeli author, and one long short story by a Palestinian author. Haven't read the palestinian short story yet, but I was disappointed by the Israeli sketches - there were some interesting ideas (eg a pathologist discovers that a woman who died in a suicide bombing had advanced cancer and would have died soon in any case - should he tell her husband?) - but these are never developed - the author seems to care more about maintaining a flip, throwaway tone in the face of all the violence. Which I am sure makes him very cool, but doesn't do a lot for the stories...

Update: The story by Samir El-Youssef is different in style from the first part of the book - one longer story instead of the sketches. But it does make sense to put them together in one book - they share a similar tone - disjointed, affectless and cynical. ( )
  wandering_star | Sep 8, 2007 |
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El-Youssef, SamirAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keret, EtgarAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Gaza Blues / Etgar Keret: Weissmann hatte einen trockenen Husten, der klang wie der Husten eines Tbc-Kranken, den ganzen Weg hustete er nur und spuckte in Papiertaschentücher.
Schuhe / Etgar Keret: Am Holocaust-Gedenktag fuhren wir mit der Lehrerin Sara mit dem 57er zum Haus der Juden von Wolhyn, und ich fühlte mich ungemein bedeutend.
Menstruationsbeschwerden / Etgar Keret: Ich träumte in der Nacht, ich sei eine vierzigjährige Frau und mein Mann Oberst der Reserve.
Der Sohn des Chefs vom Mossad / Etgar Keret: Der Sohn des Chefs vom Mossad wusste nicht einmal, dass er der Sohn des Chefs vom Mossad war.
Nylon / Etgar Keret: Der Feldwebel nahm Alons nylonverpacktes Verbandszeug und stopfte es in den Eimer.
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"Kunst! Kunst! Das ist es, was uns aus dem Zustand der Verkommenheit retten wird, in dem wir leben!" erklärte er, und seine Stimme überschlug sich fast vor Glück.
Samir El-youssef
Die Frau war tot, ihr Mann Witwer, ihre Kinder waren verwaist, das war von Bedeutung, das war das Traurige, und der ganze Rest war Geschwätz.
Etgar Keret
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An anthology of stories by Etgar Keret translated from Hebrew and one story entitled The day the beast got thirsty by Samir El-Youssef.

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