“Two days after I killed myself, I found a job at some pizza joint called Kamikaze.” So starts Pizzeria Kamikaze, the graphic adaptation of Etgar Keret’s novella Kneller’s Happy Campers, which also served as the basis of the 2006 film Wristcutters: A Love Story.
The graphic novel, written by Keret and illustrated by Asaf Hanuka, is set in an afterlife for people who have taken their own lives. Mordy finds himself there after ending his own life, and discovers that the place reminds him of Tel Aviv rather than the beeping and floating in space he imagined it would be. After finding a job, a place to live, and a new friend named Uzi Gelfand, Mordy soon discovers that his girlfriend is also in the same place. Hoping to find her, Mordy convinces Uzi to accompany him in his search. Along the way, the friends pick up a hitchhiker named Leehee, who is trying to find the people in charge to explain to them that she is there by mistake. With a renewed purpose, the three head out in search of answers through the mysterious afterworld that’s as full of heartache, hope, and absurdity as the world it mirrors.
Just like with all Keret’s writings, this story contains elements of magical realism and dark humor, and is best suited for adult audiences. Political and social themes appear frequently in his writing, as is apparent when Uzi is reluctant to go to a neighborhood run by Arabs. Keret’s aim is to show that none of the socially created animosities matter in the end. At times it even seems that the resigned, despondent manner of the book’s characters suggests that not much really matters in the world he’s created. However, reading the story to the end shows that there is never a lack of things that matter, leading the book to the final hopeful conclusion it needed.
The artwork complements the story arc through expert use of color to show the emotions of its characters. The book starts with a gloomy, muted palette and the drawn in features of the characters. The unrealistic expectations of some of the characters are delineated with bright, blazing colors in some of the panels. In the end, the book concludes with the same muted palette, but there are patches of color here and there to show that any reality can include both light and dark, hope and despair.
As a standalone graphic adaptation, this would be a great addition to any adult graphic novel collection, and would appeal to fans of fantasy and horror such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books, as well as those looking for literary graphic novels.
by Etgar Keret
Art by Asaf Hanuka