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In part two of Paul Holdengraber’s conversation with Etgar Keret, the pair discuss the relationship between writers and readers, rediscovering books with your children, and how to get slapped at a book signing. Listen to part one here.
Etgar Keret on reading to your children…
I think one of the experiences of parenthood is that it is really this kind of guide to your childhood. Because you always try to share with your children things that you’ve liked, and sometimes you see that you still like them, but they don’t, and sometimes when you kind of read it to them you say Oh, this wasn’t as good as I remembered it was. So, it’s kind of a sad experience. Like meeting your favorite kindergarten teacher and realizing she is a boring woman.
Etgar Keret on book signings…
When I first published and people would ask me for an autograph… There’s something about the book, something very, very intimate and authentic, some kind of celebration of your uniqueness. And then suddenly, you write something to somebody like, Best Wishes! without knowing him and you feel like kind of, why of all places should I write this in my book? The entire book is my claim of authenticity. Why do I have to write something fake and repeat myself when it’s against everything I write? So in the beginning, when I would write dedications, I would write [for example]: To Paul, I’m sorry I got your sister pregnant… Or: I’m sorry I gave you herpes. I thought there was something nice about this. It was comic, it was creative. But one time I wrote to a very beautiful girl: You may hate me, but we both know that the baby is mine. And her boyfriend came and slapped me. Since then, I make little doodles in books instead.
Etgar Keret on connecting with his readers…
There is something asymmetrical in the relationship between the writer and the reader. I always felt so much in the reader’s debt. Because this guy sits down and spends three, four, five hours reading you, listening to you. Imagine you’re sitting next to somebody and talking for hours without him saying a word, without even mentioning his name. When somebody comes to me and says Hey, I want your autograph or I want to ask you a question and he says I’ve read your book, then I think, I know this guy. He gave me a few hours of his life, so I should listen to his questions.