Jetlag (1998), a collection of 5 short graphical stories, by Etgar Keret and Actus Comics, includes some of Keret’s best short stories, brought to life with beautiful colour drawings. The collection takes its name from the story Jetlag: a surreal episode of grotesque debauchery takes place on a transatlantic ‘flight to nowhere’. Nothing really matters because everyone is preoccupied with their orgiastic behaviour, oblivious to the catastrophe that will shortly happen. The flight is chaotic, no one appears to be in charge — the pilots are asleep at the wheel. The narrator, aided by a stewardess, who is madly in love with him, escapes by parachuting from the aircraft (the decompression of his exit probably responsible for bringing down the plane). Later, alone in his hotel room, the narrator laments his loneliness, imagining himself with the other ‘survivors’: being rescued in a dingy and resolutely ‘refusing to wave at the cameras’.
In HaTrick, instead of a cute rabbit, a children’s magician produces terrible things out of his magic hat. In Margolis a child’s piggy bank comes to life. A gateway to hell opens up in Passage to Hell, and in The Rumanian Circus a failed romance leads a man run away with a circus monkey.
Fiction sometimes occupies a space where — liberated from reality — it can explore themes and ideas the audience might not otherwise get excited about. Absurd, black, or satirical humour can explore: egocentric excess, social hypocrisy and the oddities of human culture.
Keret’s original short stories, which these micro-graphic novels are based on, subvert expectations of the real world with comic surrealism, and beg the question: How can anything but crazy stories (that don’t make sense) explain a crazy world (that doesn’t make sense)? The stories use the humour of the unexpected — apparently normal situations can at any moment erupt into bizarre, surreal situations. Keret’s world is crazy and unpredictable. And although the stories are warnings about the world, they also celebrate the human spirit, even if much of it produces stupidity and folly. His humour counteracts the darkness. As dumb and misguided as mankind is — at least we have something to laugh at.