Why Etgar Keret's Latest Book Came Out in Persian Before Hebrew

People in Israel said he loves Iranians more than Israelis but don't understand he was only fulfilling his son's wishes, author says.

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Etgar Keret addressing the Limmud FSU conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, November 2016.
Etgar Keret addressing the Limmud FSU conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, November 2016.Credit: Sergey Itskin/Limmud FSU

Author Etgar Keret told a Jewish conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, how Israelis have judged him for having his latest book come out in Persian before Hebrew without understanding the real reason why things worked out that way.

“Somehow in Israel everything is always political," Keret told over 650 participants attending a three-day Limmud FSU event. "The fact that my newest book was translated into Persian and Turkish before it came out in Hebrew leads to comments and social media attacks such as 'You’re a traitor,' 'You love Iranians more than your own people.' But I always say: If someone will come to beat me, my 10-year old son would protect me from everything.”

The reason his son might come to Keret's defense is because he played a role in Keret not publishing the book of short stories, "The Seven Good Years," originally in Hebrew. Keret told the audience that he had told his son Lev, who was seven years old at the time, that he had written a book about the family, which included stories about Lev. He gave Lev veto power over the book if he didn't want it published.

“No. I don’t see why the whole world has to know about me,” Lev replied, Keret recalled, much to the author's chagrin. However, the father was not about to give up. 

“What about if I write it in English, so people here won’t read it,” Keret suggested. Lev thoughtfully answered, “I suppose that would be alright. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t live in Israel.”

Keret consequently wrote the book in English, which has since been translated into 15 other languages, including Hebrew.

Founded in 2006, Limmud FSU is an independent educational and communal network of annual conferences and festivals, attracting more than 35,000 participants across the Former Soviet Union, according to organizers.