Under Fire 

Considering the daily news reports of suicide bombers and constant carnage, you may think there's not much room for a creative life in Israel. But some of the best stories and tales erupt in times of conflict and uncertainty. Take Etgar Keret. A filmmaker and an author, Keret has published a collection of strange short stories called The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God, which includes tales of a mother's womb on display in a museum and a man who builds a pipe to crawl into to escape his current reality.

Bus Driver is Keret's first book translated into English, and it's composed of stories he wrote 10 years ago. Although little known in the States, Keret is a best-selling author in Israel. In fact, his stories are part of the literature curriculum for Israeli high school students.

Now 34, Keret is a film director as well as an author. He won the Israeli Academy Award for best original television drama for his film Skin Deep and is lecturer of film studies at the University of Tel Aviv.

Keret is not what one expects from an Israeli writer. He writes no Hassidic stories, no police stories, no Holocaust stories, although both his parents are survivors. Instead he creates tales that question morals and values without overtly talking about current politics.

"With all the crazy things around, I came out pretty normal," says Keret, speaking via a crystal clear phone connection from Israel. "In my family I'm considered normal, the goody-two-shoes of the bunch."

Keret, who will speak on the impact of conflict on literature at Emory University this week, says he grew up unscathed by the violence that has long plagued his country.

"The problem is not getting attention," he says. "People get used to almost everything. People tend to think fear is the biggest problem, it's not; it's not being able to think beyond simple survival."

Etgar Keret will give a reading, screen a film and lecture on "Writing in Time of Madness: Meeting Modern Hebrew Literature." April 12 at 3 p.m. Emory University, White Hall Room 101. 404-727-0896.

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