A Horse Walks into a Bar

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman is an uncomfortable read to say the least.

Dovaleh (David) is an ageing stand up comic performing in a poorly attended bar in Netanyah in Israel. Instead of telling the jokes that the audience had expected they are exposed to the detail of his personal tragedy and some formative events from his childhood years. Several of the audience members turn out to be old friends who had been invited to this performance at whom the personal pain is partly directed.

This is one of several books by Israeli authors focussed on the the early life stories of the children of Holocaust survivors who arrived in Israel before 1948. The parents were scarred by the events they experienced and then had to adapt to making a new life in a new country, the children struggled to balance integration in the evolving Israeli society with their loyalty to their parents. Dovaleh is one of these kids.

This is a profoundly disturbing read, I felt like a voyeur who was compelled to watch someone’s melt down and unable to turn away. I can’t say that I enjoyed it but I didn’t want to put it down until I had finished it. The end was a little flat but perhaps after the emotional rollercoaster ride that was a relief rather than a disappointment.

A Horse Walks into a Bar won the Man Booker Prize for 2017


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