Eshkol Nevo is the author of the new novel Three Floors Up. His other books include Homesick and Neuland. He owns and co-manages the largest creative writing school in Israel.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Three Floors Up and for your three narrators?
A: My driving license was suspended so I was using public transportation again and listening to conversations I shouldn’t have been listening to. (Israelis speak quite loudly on their cell phones, and what can I do, I'm a story hunter.)
The stories I overheard during the suspension and the thought about the thin line between private and public matters were the inspiration for this novel.
Q: Each of your characters tells his or her story to someone else. Why did you choose this style of narration?
A: My characters are extremely lonely. They must confess to someone but they don’t have anyone to confess to. So they just reach out to a writer (first floor), an ex-best friend (second floor), or a dead husband (third floor). And then they just start talking.
Of course, a confession is just another form of storytelling; therefore it is manipulative. The confessors want to get something from their listener: forgiveness, understanding, approval.
Q: The idea of “three floors” has more than one meaning in the novel. How was the book’s English title chosen (is it similar in Hebrew?), and what does it signify for you?
A: In Hebrew the title is just “three floors.” But I like the “up.” I think it reflects the experience of the reader, climbing from floor to floor, in the concrete building and in the human soul.
Q: What themes do you see linking your three protagonists?
A: Parenthood. The dark sides of parenthood. The conflict between parenthood and couplehood. The conflict between drives and morality. And the urge to share the unshareable.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I cannot tell. It’s top secret.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Of all the responses I get from readers, the one I like the most is: “After reading your book I was able to forgive myself.”
--Interview with Deborah Kalb