This multicultural and bustling metropolis is the background for most of his short stories, including story of his own life. How does Etgar Keret perceive Tel Aviv?

One thing is certain, we will not find indolence typical for most Mediterranean metropolises – it’s a busy city that never sleeps. With its modern architecture and eclectic mixture of religions and cultures, Tel Aviv resembles a great collection of brilliant short stories – like those from Keret’s books. 

Foto: Beowulf Sheehan

A scandalous man from Tel Aviv

The writer comes from a family of Jewish emigrants who fled to Israel from the war-torn Poland in the forties. He was born in Ramat Ganie, one of the districts of Tel Aviv, where he spent his childhood and did mandatory military service. Keret started writing at age 24, shortly after his best friend’s suicide. A year later, he published his first collection of short stories “Pipelines”, soon followed by two more, “Missing Kissinger” and “Pizzeria Kamikaze”, which brought him international fame. He expressed his love to the city in “Tel Aviv Noir” (belonging to the series of urban anthologies).
His editorial work and choice of authors and stories led to the creation of one of the most intimate and gripping portraits of the city. He is often called “a scandalous man from Tel Aviv” due to his uncompromising style, bold views, and open criticism of the Israeli government. His short stories are based on everyday events intertwined with surrealistic visions, whereas his characters possess supernatural abilities and experience situations that do not happen to ordinary mortals – with all of these fantastic ideas starting in the hometown of the writer.

What is Keret’s Tel Aviv like?

With its multicultural community, this seaside metropolis is considered one of the most liberal Israeli cities. It is a cultural and economic centre of the country and due to a high level of wealth and prices, media often call it a “bubble”.
Nevertheless, Edgar Keret sees this as a great asset. He believes that no Israeli city equals Tel Aviv in the number of various religions, views, emotions, and events. There is always something going on there – and this kind of intensiveness can be felt in Keret’s every story.

The best coffee in the city

Keret himself prefers to live in a quiet neighbourhood known as “The Old North”. Despite its name, the buildings there are rather modern – although they may be considered historical for Tel Aviv, which was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. This is especially true for the “White City”, which is a group of buildings built in the Bauhaus style by pre-war Jewish architects. Tel Aviv may also pride itself on having one the largest conglomeration of modern buildings, with some of which being true gems of the International Style proclaimed by Le Corbusier. “The Old North” is also full of charming streets, stores, and cafes.
At Ben Yehuda we can find the writer’s favourite “Cafe Marsand” with an original interior from the 50s, while at Basel Street we can visit his favourite bookstore run by the booklover Haim Taler.And when we truly start longing for peace and solitude, it’s enough that we follow the footsteps of Keret and go to the beach, which can be reached on foot from the old part of Tel Aviv. However, closeness to the sea has more of a symbolic value for the writer. He claims that the sight of waves helps him look at problems from a distance and find balance in life. Because, in the end, every problem seems small when compared to the vastness of the great water.