January 6, 2023

Half-Baked Stories About My Dead Mom

Writer Etgar Keret tries to come up with the stories that capture his late mother, Orna Keret—but it’s hard, he says, because she’s like Maria in West Side Story and she’s also like Thanos from the Avengers. He ends up with a series of very short stories — most just a few paragraphs long — that give glimpses of different sides of her. 

Orna Keret in 1955, rehearsing a play. Courtesy Etgar Keret.

Note: The internet version of this episode contains un-beeped curse words. BEEPED VERSION.


Ira talks to author Etgar Keret about his mom, and the stories she used to tell him when she put him to sleep.  He explains why it's always been so hard to write about her.

Story #1

Bedtime Story

The story Etgar's mother told him, to explain what her father was like. (3 minutes)

Story #2


Etgar asks his mother why she only ever strokes his face with the back of her hand. (2 minutes)


Etgar tells Ira about his mother’s experience in the Holocaust and why she didn’t like people seeing her as a "survivor" or being defined by those terrible years. (5 minutes)

Story #3


Etgar's mom invents a business for herself where other women look to her like a queen. (2 minutes)

Story #4

Rain Day

It rains one morning before Etgar's son goes to school, and he and his wife don't agree on how to handle the situation. (2 minutes)


Ira asks Etgar if he has any memories where his mom is not the hero of the story.  (3 minutes)

Story #6

The Stuff

Etgar becomes a vegetarian and his mother jumps into action. (5 minutes)

Story #8

Good Day

Etgar remembers throwing a fit at a restaurant as a little boy, and what his mother said to him. (3 minutes)

Most of these stories about Etgar's mom were written for an exhibition about her called "Inside Out" at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It runs until March 19, 2023. Etgar is the author of Seven Good Years and other books of short stories, and emails a free story to subscribers every week in his newsletter.