The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories

( 9 )


Israel's hippest bestselling young writer today, Etgar Keret is part court jester, part literary crown prince, part national conscience. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God gathers his daring and provocative short stories for the first time in English.

Brief, intense, painfully funny, and shockingly honest, Keret's stories are snapshots that illuminate with intelligence and wit the hidden truths of life. As with the best comic authors, hilarity and anguish are the twin pillars ...

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Israel's hippest bestselling young writer today, Etgar Keret is part court jester, part literary crown prince, part national conscience. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God gathers his daring and provocative short stories for the first time in English.

Brief, intense, painfully funny, and shockingly honest, Keret's stories are snapshots that illuminate with intelligence and wit the hidden truths of life. As with the best comic authors, hilarity and anguish are the twin pillars of his work. Keret covers a remarkable emotional and narrative terrain-from a father's first lesson to his boy to a standoff between soldiers caught in the Middle East conflict to a slice of life where nothing much happens.

Bus Driver includes stories from Keret's bestselling collections in Israel, Pipelines and Missing Kissinger, as well as Keret's major new novella, "Kneller's Happy Campers," a bitingly satirical yet wistful road trip set in the afterlife for suicides.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These wry writings wring the truth out of the fabric of everyday life." (Boston Herald)

"One couldn't have hoped for a finer way to herald this major new voice in world literature." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"...hard to resist, with its distinctive mix of insight, humor, tenderness, indelicate language, and a hopeful kind of cynicism. . . . Exceptional." (Boston Globe)

"If you have a desire to indulge your taste for dark humor, you can't beat this book." (Baltimore Sun)

"Keret's stories are extremely short and witty, like comic sketches." (Wall Street Journal)

"Keret serves us plenty of good laughs." (New York Times Book Review)

"Twenty-two short, wonderfully surreal, laugh-out-loud-funny stories...all of them witty gems from a singular storyteller." (Elle)

"Keret serves us plenty of good laughs." (New York Times Book Review)

"The most successful stories capitalize on their brevity, their irony sharpening as the plot turns on a dime." (Publishers Weekly)

"Keret's prose comes straight out of the gate, a marvel of verbal economy that never loses its heart." (Flaunt Magazine)

"Witty, quirky and off-beat...In a society founded by ideology, Keret takes a satirical swipe at uncompromising idealogues..." (Chicago Jewish News)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592641055
  • Publisher: Toby Press LLC, The
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Pages: 190
  • Sales rank: 162,915
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Etgar Keret is one of the leading voices in Israeli literature and cinema. In the last ten years he has published three books of short stories and novellas, two comics books, two feature screenplays, and numerous teleplays. Bestsellers in Israel, his story collections have been published in eight different languages. His movie, "Malka Red-Heart," won the Israeli "Oscar," as well as acclaim at several international film festivals. Keret lectures at Tel Aviv University's School of Film.

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Read an Excerpt

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God

And Other Stories
By Etgar Keret

Toby Press

Copyright © 2004 Etgar Keret
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1592641059


the story about a bus driver who wanted to be god

This is the story about a bus driver who would never open the door of the bus for people who were late. Not for anyone. Not for repressed high-school kids who'd run alongside the bus and stare at it longingly, and certainly not for high-strung people in windbreakers who'd bang on the door as if they were actually on time and it was the driver who was out of line, and not even for little old ladies with brown paper bags full of groceries who struggled to flag him down with trembling hands. And it wasn't because he was mean that he didn't open the door, because this driver didn't have a mean bone in his body; it was a matter of ideology. The driver's ideology said that if, say, the delay that was caused by opening the door for someone who came late was just under thirty seconds, and if not opening the door meant that this person would wind up losing fifteen minutes of his life, it would still be more fair to society to not open the door, because the thirty seconds would be lost by every single passenger on the bus. And if there were, say, sixty people on the bus who hadn't done anything wrong and had all arrived at the bus stop ontime, then together they'd be losing half a hour, which is double fifteen minutes. This was the only reason why he'd never open the door. He knew that the passengers hadn't the slightest idea what his reason was, and that the people running after the bus and signaling him to stop had no idea either. He also knew that most of them thought he was just an SOB, and that personally it would have been much much easier for him to let them on and receive their smiles and thanks. Except that when it came to choosing between smiles and thanks on the one hand, and the good of society on the other, this driver knew what it had to be.

The person who should have suffered the most from the driver's ideology was named Eddie, but unlike the other people in this story, he wouldn't even try to run for the bus; that's how lazy and wasted he was. Now, Eddie was assistant cook at a restaurant called the Steakaway, which was the best pun that the stupid owner of the place could come up with. The food there was nothing to write home about, but Eddie himself was a really nice guy--so nice that sometimes when something he made didn't come out too great, he'd serve it to the table himself and apologize. It was during one of these apologies that he met Happiness, or at least a shot at Happiness, in the form of a girl who was so sweet that she tried to finish the entire portion of roast beef that he brought her, just so he wouldn't feel bad. And this girl didn't want to tell him her name or give him her phone number, but she was sweet enough to agree to meet him the next day at five at a spot they decided on together--at the Dolphinarium, to be exact.

Now Eddie had this condition--one that had already caused him to miss out on all sorts of things in life. It wasn't one of those conditions where your adenoids get all swollen or anything like that, but still, it had already caused him a lot of damage. This sickness always made him oversleep by ten minutes, and no alarm clock did any good. That was why he was invariably late for work at the Steakaway--that and our bus driver, the one who always chose the good of society over positive reinforcements on the individual level. Except that this time, since Happiness was at stake, Eddie decided to beat the condition, and instead of taking an afternoon nap he stayed awake and watched television. Just to be on the safe side, he even lined up not one but three alarm clocks and ordered a wake-up call to boot. But this sickness was incurable, and Eddie fell asleep like a baby, watching the kiddie channel. He woke up in a sweat to the screeching of a trillion million alarm clocks-- ten minutes too late--rushed out of the house without stopping to change, and ran toward the bus stop. He barely remembered how to run anymore, and his feet fumbled a bit every time they left the sidewalk. The last time he ran was before he discovered that he could cut gym class, which was about in the sixth grade, except that unlike in those gym classes, this time he ran like crazy, because now he had something to lose, and all the pains in his chest and his Lucky Strike wheezing weren't going to get in the way of his pursuit of Happiness. Nothing was going to get in his way except our bus driver, who had just closed the door and was beginning to pull away. The driver saw Eddie in the rearview mirror, but as we've already explained, he had an ideology--a well- reasoned ideology that, more than anything, relied on a love of justice and on simple arithmetic. Except that Eddie didn't care about the driver's arithmetic. For the first time in his life, he really wanted to get somewhere on time. And that's why he went right on chasing the bus, even though he didn't have a chance.

Suddenly, Eddie's luck turned, but only halfway: one hundred yards past the bus stop there was a traffic light. And just a second before the bus reached it, the traffic light turned red. Eddie managed to catch up with the bus and drag himself all the way to the driver's door. He didn't even bang on the glass, he was so weak. He just looked at the driver with moist eyes and fell to his knees, panting and wheezing. And this reminded the driver of something--something from out of the past, from a time even before he wanted to become a bus driver, when he still wanted to become God. It was kind of a sad memory, because the driver didn't become God in the end, but it was a happy one too, because he became a bus driver, which was his second choice. And suddenly the driver remembered how he'd once promised himself that if he became God in the end, He'd be merciful and kind and would listen to all His creatures. So when he saw Eddie from way up in his driver's seat, kneeling on the asphalt, he simply couldn't go through with it, and in spite of all his ideology and his simple arithmetic he opened the door, and Eddie got on--and didn't even say thank- you, he was so out of breath.

The best thing would be to stop reading here, because even though Eddie did get to the Dolphinarium on time, Happiness couldn't come, because Happiness already had a boyfriend. It's just that she was so sweet that she couldn't bring herself to tell Eddie, so she preferred to stand him up. Eddie waited for her, on the bench they'd agreed on, for almost two hours. While he sat there he kept thinking all sorts of depressing thoughts about life, and while he was at it he watched the sunset, which was a pretty good one, and thought about how charley- horsed he was going to be later on. On his way back, when he was really desperate to get home, he saw his bus in the distance, pulling in at the bus stop and letting off passengers, and he knew that even if he'd had the strength to run, he'd never catch up with it anyway. So he just kept on walking slowly, feeling about a million tired muscles with every step, and when he finally reached the bus stop, he saw that the bus was still there, waiting for him. And even though the passengers were shouting and grumbling to get a move on, the driver waited for Eddie, and he didn't touch the accelerator till Eddie was seated. And when they started moving, he looked in the rearview mirror and gave Eddie a sad wink, which somehow made the whole thing almost bearable.


Excerpted from The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God by Etgar Keret Copyright © 2004 by Etgar Keret. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Resfreshing Short Stories from Israel

    I usually do not enjoy short stories. I think most of them lack character development and I am always left wanting more. This is not the case with Etgar Keret's stories. His stories are so well presented and they aren't like anything else i have read. They are not predictable and that's so refreshing! Since the stories are translated from Keret's native tongue all i can do is wonder how amazing they are in their native tongue since a lot of things get lost in translation. My favorite was "Kneller's Happy Campers" which was turned into a movie called Wristcutters starring Patrick Fugit (of Almost Famous) and Shannyn Sossamon (of A Knight's Tale) and even Tom Waits!---LD.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    Such a great book!  Beautifully written and so much fun!! A true

    Such a great book!  Beautifully written and so much fun!! A true home library must have!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2005

    Short and hilarious stories

    The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God is an enjoyable collection to read. Etgar Keret emerged as witty, penetrating, humurous and very knowing. He is a fresh breath of to short story writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2004


    Keret's stories (well, the best of them) are efficient and powerful. They fold together humor, sadness, violence, and fantasy. Wow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2003

    Dark Humor

    Etgar Keret¿s collection of stories is a smattering of random thoughts mixed with Israeli philosophy and dark humor. The beginning of the book was refreshingly original, though by the end, the stories became rather predictably dark. Many of the stories are full of the anger that is inherent to many contemporary Israeli authors. A good, quick read for those who enjoy dark humor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2001

    An amazing debut!

    I don't know what bad drug trip the reviewer from Kirkus was on when he/she read this book (love that freedom to write anonymous pans and have people you seriously!), but if you read the review from that magazine posted above, you won't have the faintest clue why this is such a terrific book. Were we reading the same thing? Keret is very funny, but his 'hip' humor is checked by his lack of fear of emotion. It's rare that you find a supposedly chic young writer who isn't scared of real feelings, who doesn't hide behind the shield of 'as if I care' irony. Take the story 'Breaking the Pig' -- a child's-eye vision of a boy's love for his ceramic piggybank; it's full of genuine sweetness and genuine heartbreak, without the least fear that being both straighforwardly sweet and heartbreaking will make you 'uncool' as a writer. Keret and his characters feel the world that surrounds them, and there's a wonderful richness and variety to the stories that are included in this volume. I'm glad that someone decided to translate this young writer, because his warmth, humor, passion, and breadth of inquiry make him a welcome addition to our literature. This one's a keeper.

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    Posted May 24, 2013

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    Posted November 7, 2008

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    Posted December 5, 2010

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