A Horse Walks into a Bar
David Grossman, Jessica Cohen
WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
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 breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G 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.
Pitch-perfect black comedy -- Salman Rushdie * Guardian * Excellent. -- Dara O Briain * Observer * 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 * Incredibly fast paced, and the dialogue comes at you like a machine gun... It is powerful in its own right. -- Sara Garland * Nudge * A haunting, intense and Man Booker International prize-winning novel from a great writer. * Mail on Sunday * 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 * The perfect antidote to Trump. -- Sarah Churchwell * Guardian * 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 * 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 * This is yet another masterwork from the wonderful Israeli novelist whose work resonates with emotional intelligence, humanity and truth. -- Eileen Battersby * Irish Times * 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 * 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 * A Horse Walks into a Bar is a delight. -- Gabriel Josipovici * Times Literary Supplement * An unexpected delight... This is a novel, for our new Age. -- Ian Sansom * Guardian * With this raw and fiercely emotional book Grossman, one of Israel's finest writers, steps into tricky new territory. -- Lee Langley * Spectator * 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 * 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 * 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 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! * 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 * 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 * A short, shocking masterpiece. -- Adam Lively * Sunday Times * 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 * This is a virtuoso piece of writing, a whirlwind of laughter and tears that sucks you in and makes you holds your breath. -- John Harding * Daily Mail * 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 * Unless pop lyricists have the lock on the Novel prize in literature from now on, then a leading future candidate must be David Grossman. -- Mark Lawson * Guardian, Book of the Year * 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 * 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 *
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