‘Creative Writing’ by Etgar Keret


From The New Yorker:

The first story Maya wrote was about a world in which people split themselves in two instead of reproducing. In that world, every person could, at any given moment, turn into two beings, each one half his/her age. Some chose to do this when they were young; for instance, an eighteen-year-old might split into two nine-year-olds. Others would wait until they’d established themselves professionally and financially and go for it only in middle age. The heroine of Maya’s story was splitless. She had reached the age of eighty and, despite constant social pressure, insisted on not splitting. At the end of the story, she died.

It was a good story, except for the ending. There was something depressing about that part, Aviad thought. Depressing and predictable. But Maya, in the writing workshop she had signed up for, actually got a lot of compliments on the ending. The instructor, who was supposed to be this well-known writer, even though Aviad had never heard of him, told her that there was something soul-piercing about the banality of the ending, or some other piece of crap. Aviad saw how happy that compliment made Maya. She was very excited when she told him about it. She recited what the writer had said to her the way people recite a verse from the Bible. And Aviad, who had originally tried to suggest a different ending, backpedalled and said that it was all a matter of taste and that he really didn’t understand much about it.

It had been her mother’s idea that she should go to a creative-writing workshop. She’d said that a friend’s daughter had attended one and enjoyed it very much. Aviad also thought that it would be good for Maya to get out more, to do something with herself. He could always bury himself in work, but, since the miscarriage, she never left the house. Whenever he came home, he found her in the living room, sitting up straight on the couch. Not reading, not watching TV, not even crying. When Maya hesitated about the course, Aviad knew how to persuade her. “Go once, give it a try,” he said, “the way a kid goes to day camp.” Later, he realized that it had been a little insensitive of him to use a child as an example, after what they’d been through two months before. But Maya actually smiled and said that day camp might be just what she needed.

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