"A horse walked into a bar" - David Grossman

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"A horse walked into a bar" - David Grossman
"A horse walked into a bar" - David Grossman

The Bulgarian edition of " A horse entered a bar" is now on the book market. The novel with which David Grossman won the Man Booker 2017 is a supreme example of writing mastery.

This is a daring, explosive, breathtaking read about the drama of a stand-up comedian who collapses on stage in front of his audience. At once magnetic and wretched, Dov Grinstein lays bare a searing wound he's lived with for years-a fateful and terrifying choice he was forced to make in the past. The title of the novel is borrowed from a famous joke that remains unfinished, and the ending "bites" the beginning by the tail, implying that it does not matter whether the action takes place in Caesarea, in Natania or anywhere else, because every place it can be a kind of stage in the great theater of life. The rights to the book, whose impact ranks it with the best of Dostoyevsky and Kafka, have already been sold in over 25 countries.

Born in 1954 in Jerusalem, David Grossman is among the leading writers in his homeland and one of the most talented pens in world literature. A Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of France and the recipient of many other awards, he is the author of novels, non-fiction and children's books translated into 36 languages. Grossman is the author who has earned his place among Israel's 200 Greatest of All Time. His novels "Will you run away with me?", "The Red Thread" and "A horse entered a bar" have been translated into Bulgarian, for which the writer won one of the most prestigious prizes in the literary world - "Man Booker" 2017. David Grossman will personally present his novel in Sofia (October 18, 7 p.m., Peroto Literary Club) as a guest of the international cinema-literary festival "Cinelibri". The film adaptation of the book "Will you run away with me?" will also be shown within the film forum.



– Good evening, good evening, soooo good night, Keisariayaya!!!

The stage is still empty. The voice echoes from behind the scenes. Those sitting in the lounge slowly fall silent and smile in anticipation. From a side door, a thin, short, bespectacled man leaps onto the stage as if he had been forcibly pushed or kicked out of it. He stumbles a few more steps, almost falls, rests with both hands on the dusty floor of the stage, and then, with a sharp movement, lifts his butt up. Applause and ragged laughter in the audience. More people enter from the lobby and chat loudly.

– Ladies and gentlemen, a man sitting in front of the lighting control panel announced half-heartedly. - Applause Dovale G. The man on the stage is still crouched in a monkey pose, the big glasses on his nose crooked. He slowly turns to face the salon and stares for a long time without blinking.

– Ah, – he groans, – aren't we in Caesarea? Laughter is heard. He slowly stands up and dusts his hands. "Did the agent screw me over again?" There are shouts from the audience. The man stares:

– What? What did you say? Yes, you, from the seventh table, congratulations on your lips, they are very nice! The woman giggles and covers her mouth with her hand. He stands at the very end of the stage and gently rocks his body back and forth.

– More seriously, my dear, did Natania really say that?

His eyes widen and almost fill the lenses of his glasses.

– Wait until we understand, you are telling me with a completely clear mind and without an iota of shame that now I am actually in Netanya, and without a bulletproof vest? He puts his hands between his legs in fear. The audience roars with satisfaction. Whistles are heard here and there. A few more couples enter, followed by a rowdy group of young men, probably soldiers on leave. The small lounge is filling up. Acquaintances wave to each other. Three waitresses in shorts and shiny purple t-shirts come out of the kitchen and scatter between the tables.

– Hey you with the lips. He smiles at the woman at the seventh table. "I'm not done with you yet." Let's talk about it… No, you just look like a serious girl and with original taste to me, if I'm interpreting correctly the interesting design of the hairstyle he gave you, wait for her to guess - isn't he the same stylist who styled us the mosques of the Temple hill and the Dimona nuclear power plant? Laughter in the audience. And if my nose isn't deceiving me, I smell big money… Am I right? Huh? His filthy bloodsucker! Is not it like that? Not at all? I'll tell you why - I'm seeing a generous dose of botox here, as well as a breast reduction operation that has completely blown out. Believe me, I would cut off this surgeon's hands.

The woman presses her hands to her body and, covering her face with her palms, giggles shrillly between her fingers. As he speaks, the man walks quickly from one end of the stage to the other, rubbing his hands together and scanning the audience with his eyes. High-heeled cowboy boots time his steps with dry drumming.

– Just explain to me, my dear – he spoke loudly but without looking at her – how an intelligent girl like you does not realize that such a thing should be said to a person carefully, intelligently, thoughtfully, not you pounce on him: You are in Netanya! Boom! How so? One has to be prepared, especially if one is underweight like me. - With a quick movement he lifts his faded knitted shirt and the audience gasps uncontrollably. "What, isn't it?" – He turns his naked body to those seated on the right of the stage, then to those seated on the left and gives them a broad smile. "You see, skin and bones, mostly cartilage, I swear if I was a horse I'd be in glue by now, wouldn't I?" Embarrassed giggles and disgruntled grunts spread through the audience. Understand, soul - he turns again to the woman from the seventh table, - so next time you know: such a thing is communicated to a person carefully, with a little sedative beforehand. With anesthesia, dammit! With a light rub on the earlobe: congratulations, Doval, the most handsome of men, you are the winner and have been selected to participate in a special experiment in the coastal area, it is not long, an hour and a half, two at most, because that is the maximum time, allowed for a normal person to be exposed to the people here…

The audience laughs and the man is amazed:

– What are you laughing at, you fools? It applies to you!

The audience laughs louder and he:

– Wait, let's face it, didn't they tell you that you're just the warm-up crowd here until we bring in the real one?

Whistles and loud laughter. From a few places in the lounge, there is a prolonged humming and stomping on the tables, but most of the attendees are enjoying themselves. Another young couple walks into the salon, both tall and slim, with soft golden hair, plumes falling on their foreheads: a young man and a young woman, or perhaps two young men, clad in shiny black clothes and motorcycle helmets under their arms. The man on stage glances at them and a thin line curls over his eyes.

He doesn't stop moving. Once every few minutes he accompanies his words with a quick punch in the air and mimics the movements of a boxer skillfully avoiding his opponent's attacks. The audience is enjoying it, and he is staring at the almost dark hall with his hand over his eyes.

Looking for me.

– Between us, my brothers, I should now confess to you with my hand on my heart that I am dying, dying for Natania, am I not? Yes, several young people from the audience respond. And I'm so cool to be with you on a Thursday night in your charming industrial estate, and in the basement right on the attractive radon deposits, to get a whole bunch of jokes out of my ass. Is that correct? That's right! – answers the audience in full throat. But it's not like that - the man declares and rubs his hands contentedly. "It's all a farce except for the ass, because, to tell you the truth, I can't stand your city." That Natania of yours scares me to death. Every second person on the street looks to me like a participant in the witness protection program, and every third person has the first one stuffed in a black plastic bag in their trunk. And believe me, if I didn't have to pay child support for three lovely women plus a child of one-two-three-four-five - five children, hamsa - he extends his finger-spreading hand to the audience, - I swear to you, I wouldn't be here. Before you stands the first man in history to suffer from postpartum depression. Five times postpartum depression. Actually four because two were twins. Five actually, if you count the depression after my birth. But still, one good thing came out of all this mess, Natania, the most exciting of cities, because if it wasn't for my baby vampires with milk teeth, there's no way I'd be here with you tonight for the seven hundred and fifty shekels he pays me. Yoav, without an invoice and without a good word. Well, come on bros, come on cuties, let's party tonight, let's tear the ceiling down, cheers for Queen Netanya! The audience applauds, a little confused by the twist, but succumbs to the heartfelt appeal and gentle smile that suddenly lights up his face and completely transforms him. The bitter, tortured expression disappears, and as after a photographic flash, the face of a dignified and delicate, almost sophisticated intellectual shines, who has and cannot have anything to do with everything that has been thrown out so far.

And he undoubtedly enjoys the confusion he causes. It spins on one leg like a compass needle on its axis, and when it makes a full circle and turns around, its face is once again contorted and bitter:

– Now you will hear a solemn news, Natania, you do not know what reward has fallen to you, because today, exactly on the twentieth of August, coincidentally is my birthday, thank you, thank you very much. – He humbly lowers his head. – Well, fifty-seven years ago today, the world became a slightly worse place to live in, thank you, little souls.

The man stomps around the stage, fanning himself with an imaginary fan.

– Very nice of you, really there was no need, you are overdoing it, drop the checks in the box on your way out, you can stick the bills on my chest at the end of the performance, you can hand-deliver the sextalons right now.– Here and there some raise glasses to him. A company of several couples enter rather noisily-the men clapping as they go-and settle around the tables where the stools in front of the bar used to be. They wave at him in greeting, and the women even call him by name. He narrows his eyes like a short-sighted one and returns them with a general hesitant wave. Again and again he turns his head towards my table at the back of the lounge. From the moment he stepped on stage, he was looking for my eyes. I am unable to look him straight in the eye. I don't like the atmosphere here. I don't even like the air he breathes.

– Who here has turned fifty-seven already? Raise your hand!

A few hands go up. He looks at them and nods in wonder:

– You impress me, Natania! You give me hope! No, but it's not easy to reach that age here with you, is it? Yoav, turn the spotlight to the audience, so I can see it… I said fifty-seven, ma'am, not seventy-five… Take it easy, people, one by one, there will be enough Dovales for everyone. Yes, the gentleman from the fourth table, what do you say? Are you fifty seven too? Even eight? Amazing! Cruel! You are ahead of time! And when is that, you say? Tomorrow? For many years! What is your name? How? Repeat! Yor… Yorai? Are you taking me away? Is that your name, or the course in the army? Wow bro how did you make yours huh?

The man named Yorai chuckled heartily. His fat wife leans against him and strokes his bald head in circular motions.

– And the one next to you, brother, marking her territory, is that Mrs. Strelba? Hang in there brother… No, you must have hoped that the name Yorai was the last blow that fate de alt you, eh? You were only three years old when you realized what your parents had done. – He walks slowly across the stage and plays an imaginary violin. - You sat alone and abandoned in the corner of the playground, biting the onion that your mother put in the backpack, you looked at the children who were playing together, and you repeated in your mind: courage, Jorai, thunder does not strike twice in the same place … Surprise! However, the thunder struck twice! Good evening, Mistress of Jorai! Tell me, dear, do you think to share, so to speak, between friends, and tell us what naughty surprise you are preparing for him for the holiday? No, when I look at you, I know exactly what's going through your head right now: "Since it's your birthday, dear Jorai, I'll let you go tonight, but don't you dare do what you tried to do to me you did to me on the tenth of July 1986!". The audience laughs, the lady also bursts out laughing, causing ripples on her face.

– Now tell me, Yoraika – his voice drops to a whisper – and it will stay between us, do you really think that all these necklaces and chains will hide your bosoms? No, seriously, do you think it's right in these hard belt-tightening times, when the country is full of young couples who only have one chin each - he strokes his, which is almost non-existent, and that at times gives the appearance of a frightened rodent, - you to fuck most beautifully with a double, moment - a triple chin! Ma'am, just the skin of one of your armpits could make a whole row of tents for the protesters on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv!

A ragged giggle in the audience. The lady's smile above her teeth is quite strained.

– By the way, Natania, since we have already come to my economic theory, I want to point out right now and so that there is no doubt that I am in general in favor of a comprehensive reform of the entire capital market!

He stops short of breath, puts his hands on his hips and smirks:

– I'm a genius, for God's sake, words come out of my mouth that I have no idea about! Listen to me carefully, for at least ten minutes now I have been sharing my firm opinion that taxes should be determined only and only per kilogram of live weight, weight tax! - Another look in my direction, a surprised and almost scared look, trying to find in me the weak boy he knew. – What fairer than that, you say? The most objective thing in this world! And he lifts his shirt up to his chin again, but this time he rolls it up in a slow voluptuous motion and reveals before our eyes a sunken stomach with a scar across, a narrow chest with frighteningly protruding ribs and with stretched over them the shriveled skin dotted with sores. – It may be according to the number of gushes, as we said, but I think that a graduated tax can also be introduced. His shirt is still rolled up. Some stare in disbelief, others turn their faces away, faint hisses waft through the air. He follows the reactions with undisguised, almost eager interest. – I insist on a progressive weight tax. With judgment and accruals according to the strokes of the belly, according to the belly, the ass, the balls, the cellulite, the tits of the men and what hangs on the hands of the women up here! And the good thing about my system is that there is no room for such or such interpretations. You have gained weight - you pay! Finally he pulls his shirt down. Kill me, but I still don't understand the logic of collecting taxes from those who earn money. What is the logic? Listen, Natania, and listen to me well: taxes should be collected only and only from the one about whom the state has a solid suspicion that he is well, that he is smiling at himself, that he is young, that he is he althy, that he is an optimist who knocks by night and whistles by day. Only these bastards should be taken by mercilessly skinning them!

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