David Grossman’s novel, A Horse Walks into a Bar is about a standup comic’s rambling and confessional routine in an Israeli comedy club. The book has won the Man Booker international prize for the year’s best fiction in translation.
Set in small Israeli town, the novel is focused entirely on the act of comedian Dovaleh Greenstein. Taking to the stage to needle his audience with vulgar and aggressive jokes, Greenstein’s repellent performance begins to crumble as he reveals a fateful and gruesome decision he once made, which has haunted him ever since. The book is a meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humor and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find courage to carry on.1
The author, David Grossman, knows something about grief. Ten years ago in the final hours of what Israelis call the second Lebanon war, Grossman heard that his son, Uri, a staff sergeant serving in a tank unit, had been killed in action. Uri was 20. Grossman had this to say:
. . . in order to do almost anything, you have to act against the gravity of grief. It is heavy, it pulls you down, and you have to make a deliberate effort to overcome it. You have to decide that you won’t fall.
He relates that it required a conscious decision on his part not to immerse himself in grief.2
As a family law attorney, grief accompanies my clients in various circumstances. Coping with losing a loved one is one of life’s great difficulties. Divorcing couples and non-married partners that break up also experience grief. It is important to note that not everyone grieves the same way; we have individual patterns and outlets for grief.3
For David Grossman, his art is an outlet for his grief. As his book portrays, humor can be a way of coping with grief.
1 Cain, Sian. “The Guardian”. June 14, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/books.
2 Freedland, Jonathan. “The Guardian”. November 26, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/books.
3 Grief. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/.