Writing Friendship in Conflict Zones
October 30, 2020
As part of a Fall 2020 undergraduate course, Palestinian author Sayed Kashua and Israeli author Etgar Keret joined Virginia Tech Department of Religion and Culture faculty members Aaron Ansell and Brian Britt for a podcast conversation, “Writing Friendship in Conflict Zones.”
As part of the podcast episode, students in the course, which focused on the topic of friendship, read two short works on friendship by the authors: “Photo With Uzi” by Keret and “A Friend in Need” by Kashua.
The podcast episode runs 102 minutes and is available for download here.
“Sayed Kashua and Etgar Keret are celebrated authors, and their work has earned wide readership and praise in English translation,” said Britt. “We had a wide-ranging conversation about the place of literature in society, particularly around issues of conflict and identity. We talked about friendship, empathy, and humor, but more than that, Sayed and Etgar embodied these qualities in our exchange.”
The recording was made on September 17, 2020, via Zoom with Keret in Tel Aviv, Kashua in St. Louis, Missouri, and Ansell and Britt in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Listening with headphones is recommended to enhance audio quality.)
A Palestinian citizen of Israel, Kashua is a prominent author, screenwriter, and journalist who writes in Hebrew and is known for his books and humorous columns in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. He is the author of the essay collection Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life, and the novels Second Person Singular, winner of the prestigious Berstein Prize; Let It Be Morning, shortlisted for the international IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Dancing Arabs, which was adapted into a film, A Borrowed Identity. His most recent novel, Track Changes, was published in English in 2020.
Kashua is the writer and creator of the prize-winning sitcoms Arab Labor and The Writer. In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek style, he addresses the problems faced by Arabs in Israel, caught between two worlds. He was a consultant on the Netflix hit TV show Shtisel. He is also creator of new TV series for HBO and Sony. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among other publications.
In 2004, he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize in Literature (Israel). Among his other awards are the Grinzane Cavour Award for First Novel (Italy), the Lessing Prize for Critics (Germany), the SFJFF Freedom Expression Award (USA), the Bernstein Prize (Israel), and the Prix des Lecteurs du Var (France).
Keret is an internationally acclaimed Israeli writer and filmmaker. Known for his short stories, rarely extending beyond three or four pages, he fuses the bizarre with the banal, and offers a window on a surreal world that is both dark and comic.
Keret’s books — which have been published in more than 45 languages and are bestsellers in Israel — include The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God, Missing Kissinger, The Nimrod Flipout, The Girl on the Fridge, Suddenly a Knock on the Door, and Fly Already, which won the prestigious Sapir Prize. Keret is also the author of a memoir, The Seven Good Years, in which he contemplates moments of his life against a backdrop of constant conflict, casting an absurd light on both the monumental and mundane. More than 60 short movies have been based on his stories.
Keret’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and the Paris Review, among many other publications. He is a regular contributor to This American Life. In 2016 Keret was awarded The Charles Bronfman Prize, recognizing his work as inspiring Jewish Values and having global impact. Keret has also received the Book Publishers Association’s Platinum Prize several times, the Chevalier medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, and the Prime Minister’s Prize and the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Prize.