Chaired by Stuart Kelly
Stuart opened up the event by stating that it “was a real pleasure to welcome the authors of these two very exciting short story collections.” He also commented on how Etgar Keret has the “most terrifying take on Winnie the Pooh he has ever seen.”
Kevin read from his collection first, he read ‘Fjord of Killary’ to the delight of the audience. Before kicking off his reading he commented on the language throughout his short stories. He then stated that anyone is delicate needs to leave right now. I love hearing Kevin Barry reading, there is always a lot of passion in his voice and he always fills the room with laughter.
Etgar read next he commented that on how his stories are to short and he often has to bulk them out when doing a reading to include a back story. He read ‘Healthy Start’. He also commented on how as a writer he likes to write about subjective experience and how you feel in that particular situation. “When you write, you invite people into your own perception of reality.”
After both readings were finished, Stuart then kicked off the discussion. He brought up the topic of how a proportion of stories in both collections seem to focus on a number of men who are failing to be real men.
Etger was the first to respond he expressed the opinion that “all writers write ourselves in our stories. It offers reader comfort and acknowledgement that writers go through these situations. Most of us are very pathetic and when readers agree, I can comfort them.”
“Failure is mostly every line and word in my black dark comedy stories” Kevin informed the audience. He admits that he abandones more stories than what he goes on with.
The conversation then turned to language. Etgar writes his stories in a form of hebrew slang. “Some people may put their book next to Shakespeare, I put mine next to the bible. To write in old Hebrew you have to write biblical words, it is the language of the gods. Etger explains that he uses hebrew slang as he wants his stories to feel contemporary and also Hebrew slang represents his society.
Kevin’s books contrast on the language front especially in the City of Bohane. Kevin admits that he “uses and abuses the english language. The language of City of Bohane is an extreme take on how language may shape Ireland in the future.”
Time for some audience questions:
Where does Etgar get his surrealism? Who inspires you?
“As a reader many writers inspires me. However it all comes down to life experiences. Reality seems to act strange around me and I have a pretty strange life. My brother lives in a treehouse in Thailand with high speed internet. Anything can happen.”
Kevin was then asked about pop culture strains in his stories.
He replied by saying that “books are made out of other books. I have been inspired by Frank O’Connor and many american short story writers. All sorts of things bleed into my short stories. I want my stories to be something fresh and new. I discard more than I keep. When I finish a story, I feel like it is a masterpiece but then I put it away for 1/2 months and then realise it isn’t a masterpiece.” What he said next was perhaps my favourite thing that has been said at the Edinburgh International Book Festival so far. “Short story writing is a sacred pure craft. I will always stick to the form, the form has a life time dedication from me.”
Political situations features in the novels. How do these situation feed into your novels?
Etgar answered first, he commented on how “Jewish/Israel identity contain a oxymoron/paradox in them. Jewishness is very like love. It has a different meaning to everyone. As a writer Israel is an interesting place to live. There is 360 degrees of reality. Israel is less of a country and more of a reality show. Somebody made it up.”
Kevin responded by saying he feels that “everything you write even if you don’t mean it has political reasons. My novels always portray the present moment in Ireland. Any story is set in the moment, you can’t help it.”
On that thought the event drew to a close.