This book is actually a short story collection. The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and Other Stories is written by no other but Etgar Keret, an Israeli author. Keret was born on the year 1967, August 20 in Tel Aviv. He is critically well known for his short stories, graphic novels, and scriptwriting for film and television. His newest book is Suddenly, A Knock On the Door. According to biodata I read in the internet, his writing is one of the most important Israeli books of all time. I love some of his stories in this collection. They are brilliant. Out of the 22 stories in the whole book, I will only be reviewing my top three.
Plague of The First Born
This is one of the selected stories I chose. Plague of the First Born was under the narration of a younger brother. He had an older brother named Abdu. After the plague of the frogs, many families were leaving. When the younger brother asked their father, “Why are we not moving like them?”, the father answered to the two boys that he had made a promise to never move anywhere at all. Long time back, he was forced to leave their mother in her uncle’s care. Soon, after he gathered her and built their home, he had two vows; one, he would never leave the valley, and two, their family would never be separated, even in a short while.
Soon, the plague of the first-born came. There were lots of screams in the neighborhood. Father, Mother, and younger brother were running to Abdu’s room. They found him really, really still. Mother started crying and Father started to cry too. Mother refused to believe that he was dead. She believed that he was asleep. She tugged into Abdu’s sleeve and told him to wake up. And he did. Then, Father looked really angry and said the Gods had not gave them a miracle, but only the truth. Abdu was not their first-born child.
This story is like a piece of philosophical puzzle; that’s why I like it. The logical explanation would go like this: If Abdu didn’t die, in the middle of the first-born plague, that means Abdu was not their first born. It is as simple as that. Firstly, Abdu may not be even Mother’s child but a second born from somebody and was given to Mother. Secondly, maybe Mother had another child, before Abdu, in the period of when Father was away (or had not been with her), and the child died. Or maybe Mother made it a secret, so that it wouldn’t break Father’s heart.
We shall never know what actually had happened in the past. It is full of adults’ secrets and might be bad for everyone. In the end of the story, there is no explanation at all, and it seems the reader must work his/her ways through to fill in the gap. That’s why I like this story very much. It opens to any possibilities.
This story was from the point of view from a man who had a friend called Katzenstein. In his whole life, he had been compared to Katzenstein. In a test, when he did not go into honours class, his mother compared his with Katzenstein. He was compared by his wife, about Katzenstein (again).
Finally, one day, when he was in the plane, when he coincidentally was in the same flight with Katzenstein. He fixed his eyes on the back off Katzenstein’s head. One of the flight attendants told the man to go back to his place, for they were going to land, but he saw the flight attendant’s eyes were checking out Katzenstein. The man had enough of being shadowed by Katzenstein. He decided to suicide. But of course, suicide was considered a sin in the after life, so he was forced to go to hell.
And in hell, he suddenly saw a bus, with Katzenstein and the other passengers from the plane. The plane itself had crashed after he took his life. Katzenstein was in heaven, while he was in hell.
I also like this story because it is simply funny. The man’s life is haunted by someone named Katzenstein. He can’t avoid Katzenstein since he is in his childhood until ends up in hell. In other word, he has to see Katzenstein forever from hell.
I guess Katzenstein must has been born perfect. Handsome, smart, funny, intellegent, anything anybody could have wished for. Does he realize how his beauty caused trouble to others? For he has done one sin, that he doesn’t notice: like ghost, Katzenstein haunts the life of some innocent guy. Yes, I think it is actually Katzenstein’s fault who appears everywhere, near him. Or, is this the man’s fate? Maybe.
The Flying Santinis
This is the story narrated by a boy who wanted to be in the circus. Like the Flying Santinis. After watching the circus performance, soon it came the time for him to enter the circus. Papa Luigi (maybe he was the ringmaster) had a sort of tests for the boy.
The boy passed the first test. The second test was to touch his toes without bending his toes. The boy did it… and he broke backbone. After that, he never could be a flying Santinis. Ever. And this was what the ringmaster said to the boy: “I won’t mind even mind if you bend a little bit.”
This story is quite tragic and sad. In society, I often heard people always say, ‘You must achieve your dreams’. Those who said it should read this story. The poor boy in the story wants to achieve his only dream, but it seems, all dreams have consequences. And this one, it costs him so much.
“I won’t mind if you bent your knees a little bit.” I imagine, this line must has made the boy frustrated. Because of his broken back bone, he cannot be a flying Santinis. Poor boy. So all in all, chasing a dream is good for you, but you can’t let yourself die achieving it.