By Zach Itzkovitz
Etgar Keret’s memoir, “The Seven Good Years,” resembles most of his work in that it is presented in small pieces. Seven chapters, or “years,” divide it, each of which contains four to seven brief memories.
Despite being a memoir, “The Seven Good Years” reads like a collection of fictional short stories because of Keret’s ability to cherry-pick memories and mold them into a thematically consistent whole.
As a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Keret understands that it’s not always what you say, but what you don’t say that holds the most weight. “The Seven Good Years” is a series of teases — stories charged with brevity.
“The Seven Good Years” refers to the seven years between the birth of Keret’s son, Lev, and the death of his father, Ephraim. It may also refer to the seven years of age that separate Keret from his older brother, whom he describes in a story titled “Idol Worship.”
These and other stories are complemented by Keret’s sly wit that’s worth paying attention to uncover. Keret’s signature style produces hybrids that are at once philosophical and colloquial, laugh-out-loud funny and disturbing.
It would be apparent to anyone who reads “The Seven Good Years” that Keret could write a dramatic and profound masterpiece about drying paint, filing taxes or the silence of loneliness. His keen eye to metaphor, sensory image and what’s relatable is likely the result of excessive empathy and introspection on Keret’s part.
The book’s cover is bright yellow with an illustration of a slingshot loaded with a dove bearing an olive branch. This paradox is amusing, even kind of funny, in its absurdity.
It does, however, hide the book’s inherent cover art: simply a pair of shoes etched white in a black background. It reflects the content of a story titled “In My Father’s Footsteps” in the book’s final chapter. I know only because I read it.
But to folks opening the book for the first time, the shoes are merely shoes; they could mean anything.
This ambiguity between the symbolic and literal is the engine on which “The Seven Good Years” runs, and it may be Keret’s most natural source of writing. I hope his heart-warming paradoxes continue to see the light of day.
The Seven Good Years
By Etgar Keret
Riverhead Books, 192 pages, $26.95