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Dolly City, Orly Castel-Bloom (1992)

‘Madness is a ripe orange’

Etgar Keret
September 17, 2013

In her shocking novel Dolly City, Orly Castel-Bloom writes: “Madness is a ripe orange, and therefore it should be wrapped up and sent to Europe in crates stamped with the word ‘Jaffa’.” In many senses that is what Castel-Bloom does in this book: She takes all the fears and aggression of one of the most violent regions on this blue planet, wraps it up in an incredible and unique imaginative plot—in which the protagonist, a sadistic woman who conducts heartless experiments on animals in her home laboratory, finds and saves an infant who becomes the object of her obsession—and the result is literally breathtaking. If the usual feminine voice that you find in modern Hebrew literature is that of the worried mother or the grieving widow, Castel-Bloom’s protagonist is competent and murderously ambitious. Dolly City was published 20 years ago and was declared by the critics a classic the day it reached the stands. And yet, with every passing year, it seems the distance between the crazy grotesquerie presented in the book and the harsh reality in which we live is getting shorter and shorter.

Etgar Keret is a Tel Aviv-based filmmaker and fiction writer. He writes a regular column from Israel for Tablet.

Etgar Keret is a Tel Aviv-based filmmaker and fiction writer.