A Horse Walks into a Bar
Author: David Grossman
Genre: Literary Fiction (Israel)
Winner: The Man Booker International Prize, 2017
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.
A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G provokes both revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he’s been summoned to this performance.
|“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid
I am the kind of person who wants to change every story I read. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. This is one reason I find myself incapable of reviewing a memoir.
A Horse Walks Into A Bar, has emerged as an exception to my obsessive need to change stories and plot lines.
Initially written in Hebrew, this book is a multitude of things and events. Well, obviously as the winner of the Man Booker Prize, this book has to clear all levels of extraordinary. But this review would be based on how I process the story in my mind. Oh! trust me, there’s a lot of processing involved.
Dovaleh is a stand-up comedian, and on one such show of his, he invites his long-lost childhood friend, with the pretext of watching him do what naturally comes to him (as in making jokes about every single entity in this universe). As the story unfolds, hilariously and painfully (yes, you read it right), we get a glimpse of Israel and the life there, how the children are given compulsory military training, how they are raised to be able to stand up in a fight. We also see, how Dovaleh, loses his childhood, in a slow and tormenting process.
“What do people see in me on the first impression? … Is there any imprint left from the love I knew? A rebirth mark?”
There’s not much to say about this book without giving away spoilers. This book is exceptionally written, and the readers are in sync with the audience and the show. There are jokes that make you laugh so hard, and facts spoken in a subtle way, facts that have a very strong impact on the readers. I found myself sympathizing with Dovaleh, losing my shit when the audience wouldn’t consider the fact that he is a human after all, and crying when he sighed in a way that could shatter souls. This is the perfect mix of brilliant writing and realistic storytelling skills.
“He walks distractedly all over the stage, fanning his face. There are moments when I think he’s drawing strength from the story. Yet a second later I feel the story sucking all the vitality out of him.”
This is the kind of book that can be read innumerable times and each time we might capture a different message. But the ending is always going to be heartbreaking yet extremely satisfying (I say this because the ending is just beautiful, it’s all about staying strong and surviving, even when the world is dragging you down with every ounce of power they got).
“Within the whirlwind of limbs and expressions, I recognize the countenance that has passes over his face more than once this evening: he is uniting with his abuser. Beating himself with another man’s hands.”
This would be my recommendation to all my readers. Please give this book a try🙂