A HORSE WALKS INTO A BAR
Winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize
The setting is a comedy club in a small town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian coming apart on stage, an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years – a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.
A HORSE WALKS INTO A BAR is a shocking and breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. On stage the comic is torn between his commitment to his audience and the debt he owes to himself. With garish humor and badinage, Dovale Gee provokes both revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he’s been summoned to this performance.
David Grossman has reached yet another literary peak that is emotionally equal to his previous books and stunning, even outrageous, in its inventions and complexity.
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“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
“…unlike anything Grossman has yet done….It is a shocking, raw and eloquent book…..a lamentation and a plea for compassion and empathy.” -- Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
“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." -- The Economist
“David Grossman wrote a story that is so emotional that you feel obliged to look away from time to time or to even put away the book once in a while so you can breathe again and so you can prepare yourself for the next confrontation with yourself and the world around you.” – De Morgen
“David Grossman’s new novel runs on a high voltage line, operated by a frantic, mesmerizing and almost unbearable energy. An ongoing feeling of astonishment accompanies you throughout the read, and it is linked to Grossman’s bravado and to his innovation as a story teller…
“A Horse Walks into a Bar… is unlike anything Grossman has written, or anything I have read. It is a packed explosive, multi-resonant, daring and exciting” – Omri Herzog, Ha’aretz
“A chilling standup comedy act – so funny it will make you cry, while penetrating the deepest recesses of your soul. Repulsive and heartbreaking at once, a display of vulgarity so powerful it becomes cathartic. [Grossman demonstrates] virtuoso literary technique” – Gabriel Tsoran, Ha’aretz
“Grossman surprises with a profound lesson about the mechanism of emotion and, at the same time, tells a story of chilling beauty and pain.” – EL PAIS
“Grossman’s new novel depicts a cruel demeaning stand-up act…and yet this is not a book about the violence of man but rather on the human inside- and this is what turns Grossman to a truly great author.
“[A] book about a big discovery, which is that man, the human being, exists also within violence and evil, and one could look at him and see him, and if had already become distant, and even if he already died, you can still go back, imagine and rediscover him. This is the lesson the protagonists of this novel learn, and this is what any great literature teaches.” – Prof. Nurit Gertz, Walla!
“This novel deals with, among other subjects, the relationship of an artist and his audience in contemporary Israel…. the artist is forced to tell his tale, and in order to utter it and pass it on to his audience he has to be firm in this desire, have the willingness for self-exposure and overflow with charismatic abilities…” – Esty Adivi-Shoshan, Ha’aretz
“A Horse Walks into a Bar is a sensational novel. As opposed to other books you cannot putt down, this novel you must put aside periodically because it is just so much (the jokes are gestures of mercy that Grossman shares with his readers, moments of reprieve)…it’s greatness is in the fact that it is not captivated by its own – exciting, unprecedented, border-lining with genius – virtuosity: it is never self-glorifying, but it is fully harnessed, with impressive literary integrity, to the story, the human heart of the piece. That’s why it grabs your throat and soul and doesn’t leave your head, generating in us what it had generated in the remaining audience who stayed to hear the stand-up artist .” – Tal Nitzan (author, literary editor and translator, from her blog)
“Grossman’s protagonist inspires in his readers suspense and vigilance, compassion and mercy, not just because of the amazing exposure on stage, not just because of the increasing feeling of unease during the encounter with him, but also because we are allowed to see this fateful opportunity to tell the story…“ – Yotam Schwimmer, YNET