"Creative Writing" by Etgar Keret Originally published in the January 2, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.
This is an incredibly short story — only four columns — and for me it succeeded in presenting a troubled marriage very well in that short space. Aviad and Maya are not troubled by thoughts of infidelity, and there is nothing to suggest they are not in love. Rather, they’ve just experienced the trauma of a miscarriage, and they haven’t found a way to deal with this together. Aviad, for his part, “could always bury himself in work, but since the miscarriage, she never left the house.”
Maya is encouraged to take a creative writing class. Here is how “Creative Writing” begins:
The first story Maya wrote was about a world in which people split themselves in two instead of reproducing. In that world, every person could, at any given moment, turn into two beings, each one half his/her age. Some chose to do this when they were young; for instance, an eighteen-year-old might split into two nine-year-olds. Others would wait until they’d established themselves professionally and financially and go for it only in middle age. The heroine of Maya’s story was splitless. She had reached the age of eighty and, despite constant social pressure, insisted on not splitting. At the end of the story, she died.
As Maya is writing the story, Aviad gives his input. He doesn’t really get the story and thinks the ending needs a lot of work. Maya is thrilled, though, when at class she is complimented by everyone, including — particularly — the professor. This is the first sign that Aviad and Maya are dealing with things in different ways and that Aviad cannot comprehend what Maya is saying. That some professor got it only infuriates Aviad more. It infuriates him, in fact, to the point that he goes and buys the professor’s book of short stories (the novel was too long) and even signs up for a creative writing class himself.
As I said, the story is very short. It’s made even shorter due to the fact that there are summaries of thee of Maya’s stories and one of Aviad’s. Consequently, it’s a story of emotion much more than plot. And it worked very well for me.