February 2007

Carrie Jones

fiction

Pizzeria Kamikaze by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka

You took the pills, released the trigger, found the vein, died and were buried and still had to go to work in the morning. Bummer. Welcome to Mordy’s world, the afterlife in Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka’s Pizzeria Kamikaze, where suicide is no release, just a transition from one crappy place to another. “And this place, whenever they’d talk about life after death and go through the is-there-isn’t-there routine, I’d always imagine these beeping sounds, and people floating around in space and stuff. But now that I am here, it reminds me of Tel-Aviv. My German roommate says this place could just as well be Frankfurt. I guess Frankfurt’s a dump too.”

Pizzeria Kamikaze is a first-person account of life after death, which according to Uzi, Mordy’s post-mortem best friend, is “just like before you offed, only a little bit worse.” Despite the grind of his empty days, Mordy still manages a little passion for Desiree, the girl he left behind. The book opens with Mordy imagining the scene of his burial with Desiree at the center: “I think she cried at my funeral. It’s not like I am conceited or anything, but I am pretty sure.” After running into his mangled pre-death roommate in a dingy grocery, Mordy finds out that Desiree killed herself too and he vows to find her. When he and Uzi go on a road trip to do just that, they pick up a mysterious beauty named LeeHee who insists that she is in kamikaze-land by mistake and needs to find “the people in charge,” a concept that the guys scoff at. After the three chance upon a group of happy(ish) people living in the woods and making minor miracles with their leader Kneller. Hanging with Kneller eventually leads them to Desiree and her new beau who just might be Jesus in Aryan clothing. When an attempt at resurrection goes down, Pizzeria Kamikaze climaxes with a paranoid, slightly confusing flourish -- an appearance by the very people LeeHee was looking for.

Based on the Etgar Keret short story “Kneller's Happy Campers” from the book The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories, Pizzeria Kamikaze exudes all the sleepy, jokey fatalism of the successful short story collection The Nimrod Flip-Out. Too bad giving the main character a face didn’t make him any less Keret’s horny but resigned everyman. Hanuka’s illustration uses black, white and silver to give life to Keret’s afterlife and the lack of color works perfectly to translate the hopelessness of setting, though the dash of color on the cover is tantalizing. His detailed drawings look cartoony in some panels, superhero straight and shady in others, giving the story an appropriately surreal feel. 

Part of the reason that this book, while entertaining, falls short of fantastic is that Mordy never feels more than lust, self-pity and boredom. His largest attachment to the world he left is his relationship with Desiree (or the promise of one), but we don’t ever find out enough about that to care. We don’t even find out why the aptly-named Mordy kills himself. Mordy doesn’t question the larger issues that surround his new life, except to be occasionally surprised at who shows up in the neighborhood. That this lack of contemplation is a side effect of being dead and twenty-something seems to be the book’s excuse for staying at the surface, but the promising premise doesn’t evolve into anything memorable.

Pizzeria Kamikaze by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka
Alternative Comics
ISBN: 1891867903
100 pages