Grossman no longer writes what we traditionally think of as novels: he has transcended genre; or rather, he has descended deep into the vaults beneath ... A Horse Walks into a Bar – again translated by Jessica Cohen, who has long proved herself capable of keeping up with Grossman’s twists and turns of style – is more like a parable, about the loss of parents and the losses of a nation. As with all good parables, it requires the reader to do some work in order to understand its meaning ... Grossman does make a few concessions to the reader, who might – understandably – come looking for humour in a book about a comic...But Grossman’s true interests lie elsewhere: A Horse Walks into a Bar is not a book about standup comedy. It is a book about art, and the relationship of suffering to art ... This isn’t just a book about Israel: it’s about people and societies horribly malfunctioning. Sometimes we can only apprehend these truths through story – and Grossman, like Dovaleh, has become a master of the truth-telling tale. 'What is he selling them?' wonders the judge. 'What is he selling himself?' These are important questions at this moment in history, a time of trickery and lies. This is a novel for our new Age of Offence – offence easily taken and endlessly performed.
...[a] brilliant, blistering novel ... Grossman masterfully weaves several complex strands of narrative. First there are Dovaleh’s stories, particularly a single story that takes most of the book to unfold and aims at the heart of his self-loathing...Meanwhile, in the spaces between Dovaleh’s riffs, the retired judge recalls his late wife and his brief childhood friendship with the comedian. Avishai sees in advance that he tangentially figures in the principal story, the traumatic event that has haunted Dovaleh’s life ... After a lifetime of writing, Grossman is acknowledging that by entertaining his readers, he, too, has implicated them in his conceits, his failings and his cruelties. With Dovaleh, Grossman has created a character who’s captivating and horrific and a stand-up routine that’s disgusting and authentically human. I can hardly say how the book achieves its bewitching effects. It all happened so fast.
...[a] magnificently comic and sucker-punch-tragic excursion into brilliance ... This is material Grossman has explored previously; indeed, some of it mirrors his own biography. But never has he presented it in one sustained performative howl, combining the comic dexterity of a Louis C.K. with a Portnoyish level of detail ... Its technical proficiency is astounding. At 194 pages, there is nothing extraneous, not one comma, not one word, not one drop of a comic’s sweat ... Grossman has taken it to a new level. He has left a trail of blood and sweat on the page that only a true master — a Lenny Bruce, a Franz Kafka — could dream of replicating.