Thoughts: A Horse Walks Into A Bar, by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen

You’re going to have to forgive me for this one – it’s been a long time since I read it, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.

I liked it maybe more than I thought I would from the reviews, which made it sound very dark and intense. And it did get quite dark, and it was rather intense, but in a way where I was thoroughly sucked in and there was no question of it being too heavy or too much for me, I just wanted to keep going.

I don’t think I’ve ever read any Israeli fiction, so it was interesting to get a glimpse of an unfamiliar life and culture, and… Well, yes, we’re going to have to get into that. I don’t know if you can read a book written in and about a country at war and ignore the war, can you? Should you? But anyway, I read this interview with Grossman before A Horse Walks Into A Bar won the Man Booker International, and it’s a lot more eloquent than I am. Is it strange that I remember it all these years later? I remembered the detail about his son, and wondered what it must be like to occupy that particular place in that particular society.

And I remembered the detail about the joke! Honestly, that’s probably what made the interview stick in my mind once A Horse Walks Into A Bar had won its way onto my reading list. I looked out for it all through my reading, and I didn’t pinpoint it, which means Grossman is a good joke writer as well as novelist.

I had come across the fact that Israel has compulsory military service after this kerfuffle, of all things, but I hadn’t really thought about it, or what it would be like to grow up in a culture where that was expected of you, and indeed, part of your childhood, so to hear the main character’s stories of his life was interesting in that sense as well as in the context of him as an individual character.

I wish I could say something meaningful about the translation, but honestly it was a long time ago. The mere fact that nothing jumps out at me means it was probably perfectly fine!

I’m not going to rehash the plot here or anything, but it takes place over a two hour comedy set, from the point of view of an old friend of the comedian’s, invited after years of non-contact to watch the set and tell the comedian what he saw. There’s a lot going on in this short period of time, in both men’s pasts as well as the present, and the story sometimes feels so brittle, like one of the other audience members might heckle just the wrong thing at just the wrong time and break it before we get to the end.

I should probably go back to it one of these days.

This entry was posted in Books, thoughtpinions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.