Israeli Writer’s Festival Invite Flouts Govt Ban

Etgar Keret: An Ubud date he may not be able to make.


The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has invited leading Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret to this year’s festival, from October 6-10, in the face of a long-standing ban on Israeli passport holders entering the country.

Keret’s place in the 96-strong invitation list of writers for this year’s festival, the seventh in the annual series, was announced by the festival late last week. His name appeared in a list posted on the festival’s website and Facebook last Friday.

His presence at the Ubud festival would be a coup for the Ubud-based Mudra Swari Saraswati Foundation and co-founder Janet de Neefe, an Ubud restaurant proprietor and accommodation provider.

The festival, which has been held annually since 2004, is the foundation’s major project, conceived in response to the 2002 Bali bombing.

This week The Bali Times put five questions to De Neefe:

WHEN was the invitation issued to Keret?
HAS he said he will attend?
HAS UWRF officially advised Jakarta that it wishes to invite an Israeli writer to the 2010 event?
TO whom, and when, was this advice tendered?
WHAT official response has been made up to this point?

De Neefe responded:

“Last week Etgar Keret was awarded the 2010 knight medallion of France’s Order of Arts and Letters. He is one of the prominent fiction writers of his generation and his books have become best-sellers across the world, while his short stories appear in Le Monde, The New York Times, The Guardian and the Paris Review. His books have been published abroad in 29 languages and in 34 countries.

“Mr Keret has been invited to the 2010 event, in the interests of gathering as diverse and globally representative a range of writers as possible, given the festival’s theme of international respect, harmony and co-operation.

“Many of our writers from around the world must apply for visas. If Mr Keret attends the festival, it will be, as with all our other guests, with the approval of the Indonesian government.”

Keret, born in 1967, has a big international reputation and numbers Palestinians among his friends. He produced his first book, Pipelines, in 1992, a collection of short stories that was at first ignored.

His second book, Missing Kissinger, published in 1994 as a collection of very short stories, captured public attention. His short story, Siren, which deals with the paradoxes in Israeli life, is in the curriculum of Israeli literature examinations.

Keret has co-authored several comic books, among them Nobody Said It Was Going to Be Fun in 1996 and Streets of Fury in 1997.

In 1999 five of his stories were translated into English, and adapted into “graphic novellas” as Jetlag. One of the stories, Kneller’s Happy Campers, concerns a young man who kills himself and goes on a quest for love in the afterlife.

In 2004 Keret produced a children’s book, Dad Runs Away with the Circus, and Gaza Blues, a collection of 15 short stories in collaboration with Palestinian Samir El-Youssef.

His films include $9.99, an animated feature made as an Israeli-Australian co-production.

Thirty-four Australian writers are on this year’s invitation list for the festival, the major contingent. There are 20 Indonesians listed and more to come when Balinese writers invited to participate are named later.

Nine writers from the United States have been invited, along with four each from Malaysia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom, and writers from Singapore, India, China and Vietnam as well as from other countries.

One Palestinian writer, Suad Amiri, is on the list.

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