The award-winning and internationally acclaimed author of the To the End of the Land now gives us a searing short novel about the life of a stand-up comic, as revealed in the course of one evening's performance. In the dance between comic and audience, with barbs flying back and forth, a deeper story begins to take shape-one that will alter the lives of many of those in attendance.
In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies. Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov's patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth-where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov's childhood-Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian's story of loss and survival. Continuing his investigations into how people confront life's capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).
"David Grossman has attempted an ambitious high-wire act of a novel, and he's pulled it off spectacularly. A Horse Walks into a Bar shines a spotlight on the effects of grief, without any hint of sentimentality. The central character is challenging and flawed, but completely compelling. We were bowled over by Grossman's willingness to take emotional as well as stylistic risks: every sentence counts, every word matters in this supreme example of the writer's craft." -Judges' Citation, Man Booker International Prize, 2017
"Astounding . . . [A] magnificently comic and sucker-punch-tragic excursion into brilliance . . . He has left a trail of blood and sweat on the page that only a true master-a Lenny Bruce, a Franz Kafka-could dream of replicating." -Gary Shteyngart, The New York Times Book Review (front cover)
"Urgent . . . Mesmerizing . . . A novel as beautiful as it is unusual . . . Grossman takes a lot of risks in A Horse Walks into a Bar, and every one of them pays off spectacularly well . . . It's nearly impossible to put down." -Michael Schaub, NPR
"Blistering . . . Concise . . . Grossman masterfully weaves several complex strands of narrative [and] translator Jessica Cohen turns the performance into fluent, American-style patter." -Ken Kalfus, The Washington Post
"Accomplished and audacious . . . An Israeli offspring of Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground [that is] laced with loss and leave-taking . . . Grossman has once more proved himself as one of Israel's finest literary alchemists." -Benjamin Balint, Haaretz
"I have never read a book like this, or even thought that one could exist . . . A hard, fast, and bumpy ride through the deserts of Israel and the soul." -Rafael Alvarez, Washington Independent Review of Books
"Arresting . . . Entertaining." -Paul Wilner, San Francisco Chronicle
"Grossman brings real humanity to this heart-wrenching and well-written novel, offering insight into one man's psychological makeup and how society has damaged him. An excellent translation; highly recommended." -Lisa Rohrbaugh, Library Journal
Praise from the UK
"Grossman has transcended genre, or rather, he has descended deep into the vaults beneath . . . This isn't just a book about Israel: it's about people and societies horribly malfunctioning. Sometimes we can only apprehend these truths through story-and Grossman has become a master of the truth-telling tale . . . These are important questions at this moment in history, a time of trickery and lies. This is a novel for our new Age of Offence-offence easily taken and endlessly performed." -Ian Sansom, The Guardian
"A polemic of unusual power . . . Shocking, raw, and eloquent. . . Grossman has pushed down deep into the wounded heart of a despairing man . . . A Horse Walks into a Bar is unlike anything Grossman has yet done. -Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
"Grossman's latest offering is a short, shocking masterpiece . . . in which absurdity and humour are used to probe the darkest corners of the human condition . . . It is a tale of nerve-shredding psychological and spiritual torture, the kind of story that is so dark that the only defence against it is darker laughter." -Adam Lively, The Sunday Times (London)
"It takes an author of Mr. Grossman's stature to channel not a failed stand-up but a shockingly effective one . . . This book feels far removed from Falling out of Time . . . Both books, however, circle around dramatic acts of mourning: the first as lyric tragedy, the second as pitch-black comedy." -Jonathan Cape, The Economist
Praise from Europe
"Literature at its highest, and most enchanting." -Il Mattino (Italy)
"Grossman has written a beautiful and hypnotizing book, on the friction between tragedy-both personal and collective-and life, which must go on." -Il Messaggero (Italy)
"A psychological, intimate chamber drama whose choreography and eloquence captivate and pain the reader in e
David Grossman, 1954 in Jerusalem geboren, ein dezidierter Verfechter einer friedlichen Lösung des Nahostkonflikts, gehört wegen seiner differenzierten politischen Haltung und ungewöhnlichen Erzählphantasie zu den herausragenden Schriftstellern der jüngeren Generation. David Grossman hat für seine schriftstellerisches Werk und sein politisches Engagement zahlreiche Auszeichnungen erhalten, u. a. den Nelly-Sachs-Preis (1991), den Premio Mondello (Italien, 1996) und den Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (2008). 2010 wird ihm der Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels verliehen. David Grossman ist verheiratet und hat drei Kinder, er lebt in Mevaseret Zion, einem Vorort von Jerusalem.