A Horse Walks into a Bar (Paperback)
  • A Horse Walks into a Bar (Paperback)

A Horse Walks into a Bar (Paperback)

(author), (translator)
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Paperback 208 Pages / Published: 16/06/2017
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Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 

A Guardian and New Statesman Book of the Year.

The audience laughs and the man is surprised. ‘Why are you idiots laughing? That joke was about you!’

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling 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. Dovaleh G, 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 breath-taking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress all are exposed as, flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G unwinds in an act of very public exposure. It is an act of disclosure that 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.

‘Few writers hold a more unflinching mirror up to Israeli society than Grossman, for which he has been both hailed and reviled by Israelis and Palestinians alike. His work stubbornly refuses to flatter or console, but it is also suffused with compassion, acutely attuned to the complexity of individual lives and the solutions people find to the challenge of that complexity.’ – The FT

The Man Booker International Prize judges comment: ‘An extraordinary story that soars in the hands of a master storyteller. Written with empathy, wisdom and emotional intelligence, A Horse Walks into a Bar is a mesmerising meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humour and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find the courage to carry on. An unforgettable, bold novel by David Grossman, beautifully translated into the English language by Jessica Cohen.’

David Grossman is an Israeli author and peace activist whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages. He is best-known for his novel of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict To the End of the Land and the poignant mediation on parental bereavement, Falling Out of Time.

Jessica Cohen is a freelance translator born in England in 1973, raised in Israel, and living in Denver. Her translations include David Grossman’s critically acclaimed To the End of the Land.


Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781784704223
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 149 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 13 mm

Unrelentingly claustrophobic... The violence that A Horse Walks Into A Bar explores is more private and intimate. Its central interest is not the vicious treatment of vulnerable others but the cruelty that wells up within families, circulates like a poison in tight-knit groups, and finally turns inward against the self... Strategic weaving together of manic humour and tears... Searing and poignant. -- Stephen Greenblatt * New York Review of Books *
Brilliant, blistering... With Dovaleh, Grossman has created a character who's captivating and horrific and a stand-up routine that's disgusting and authentically human. I can hardly say how the book achieves its bewitching effects. It all happened so fast. -- Ken Kalfus * Washington Post *
Unless pop lyricists have the lock on the Nobel prize in literature from now on, then a leading future candidate must be David Grossman. * Guardian, Book of the Year *
Much of it is extremely funny, but it's also tightly controlled and carefully paced... Few writers hold a more unflinching mirror up to Israeli society than Grossman... [A Horse Walks into a Bar] is a work of sombre brilliance and disquieting rage, an unsparing exploration of the seductive spell of escapism and "the corruption that is in cynicism." -- Rebecca Abrams * Financial Times *
This is a virtuoso piece of writing, a whirlwind of laughter and tears that sucks you in and makes you hold your breath. * Daily Mail *
A writerly tour de force that would be unbearably painful, were it not also so generously humane. -- Lucy Hughes-Hallett * New Statesman, Book of the Year *
A short, shocking masterpiece. -- Adam Lively * Sunday Times *
David Grossman tells 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, mesmerising 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 storyteller... 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 *
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. -- Nurit Gertz * Walla! *
A fine Israeli writer... It takes an author of Mr Grossman's stature to channel not a failed stand-up but a shockingly effective one. * The Economist *
Grossman's new novel is a...bravura performance... This remarkable book, rendered into English by Grossman's veteran translator Jessica Cohen, teases the reader as nakedly as the comedian does his crowd. On every page, we encounter an implied invitation to set the book down but the performer's struggle to muffle and at the same time release the howls from his soul is too profoundly haunting. -- Stoddard Martin * Jewish Chronicle *
With masterly control and brilliant timing (it's not easy to write stand-up, let alone translate it into another language, as Jessica Cohen has done so well here) Grossman has Dovaleh tell his life story, starting with the night of his conception... It may be Grossman's finest novel yet. -- Fiammetta Rocco * 1843Magazine *
With this raw and fiercely emotional book Grossman, one of Israel's finest writers, steps into tricky new territory. -- Lee Langley * Spectator *
An unexpected delight... This is a novel, for our new Age. -- Ian Sansom * Guardian *
A Horse Walks into a Bar is a delight. -- Gabriel Josipovici * Times Literary Supplement *
With A Horse Walks into a Bar, Israeli writer David Grossman accomplishes the seemingly impossible and transposes an entire stand-up show into a novel. Shocking and intense, bleak but sensitive, this affecting tale is much more than novelty... A novel that probes the fullest absurdities of the human condition and our capacities to reconstitute suffering. -- Jay Richardson * Chortle *
The thrust though is the comedian's monologue, by turns tragic and hilarious as he subjects his audience to his story. -- John Owen * Country and Townhouse *
This is yet another masterwork from the wonderful Israeli novelist whose work resonates with emotional intelligence, humanity and truth. -- Eileen Battersby * Irish Times *
Bold, brash, angry and heartbreakingly tender, with flurries of exasperated humour, here is a novel to take one by surprise... A demanding and gloriously rewarding novel, in it Grossman confronts the business of being alive. -- Eileen Battersby * Irish Times *
A sensitive and deeply emotional account of a past-prime comedian... This book is an immersive read for both the fans and haters of the stand-up comedy, but tread carefully if you're not up for an emotional rollercoaster. -- Yoojung Chun * Oxford Student *
The perfect antidote to Trump. -- Sarah Churchwell * Guardian *
This book is a compelling study of the relationship between artist and spectator, and how suffering feeds into art, and he's made of it a bravura performance... Extraordinary. -- Alastair Mabbott * Herald *
A haunting, intense and Man Booker International prize-winning novel from a great writer. * Mail on Sunday *
Incredibly fast paced, and the dialogue comes at you like a machine gun... It is powerful in its own right. -- Sara Garland * Nudge *
Abrasive, unexpected and eventually heartbreaking, it is a masterclass in characterisation and structure, and it beat off some exceptionally strong competition to win the prize... A Horse Walks into a Bar is quite unlike any other Grossman book except in one important respect: it's another masterpiece. -- Nick Barley * New Statesman *
Excellent. -- Dara O Briain * Observer *
Pitch-perfect black comedy -- Salman Rushdie * Guardian *

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“Why the long face?”

This book really makes you a part of the audience. You go through so many emotions when reading this 'stand-up' act, and it is all reflected in the expressions and actions of the other spectators. With... More

Paperback edition
4 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 77

“When the laughter stops...”

I was astounded by this novel. I have never read anything that makes you laugh so much-- and then stop, because then the joke goes a bit too far, and reveals a darkness, a self-deprecation, a self-destruction... It... More

Hardback edition
1 similar book recommended
Helpful? Upvote 77

“Alienating but entertaining”

This year's Man Booker International prize winner was announced last Wednesday, and to me, it wasn't a surprise that it went to David Grossman's 'A horse walks into a bar' (translated by... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 47

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