Saturday, July 6, 2019

Richard Zimler

Richard Zimler's novels include The Search for Sana, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, and The Seventh Gate. He has won many prizes for his writing and has lectured on Sephardic Jewish culture all over the world. He now lives in Porto, Portugal, where he teaches journalism and writes.

Zimler's latest novel is The Gospel According to Lazarus.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Zimler's reply:
I’m currently reading two books: Sails & Winds: a Cultural History of Valencia, and The Dead Sea and the Jordan River.

Sails & Winds, by British journalist Michael Eaude, is a wide-ranging, in-depth look at Valencia and its region – its history, politics, culture, agriculture... The author clearly has an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject and writes extremely well. He’s particularly good on early Valencian literature – on writers such as Ausi├ás March, regarded by many literary critics as Spain’s greatest poet in the fifteenth century, and Joanot Martorell, who wrote the famous 15th century novel, Tirant Lo Blanc. Eaude provides his own translations of excerpts from their writings, which I found extremely helpful.

Another aspect of Sails & Winds that I really like is the exploration of current Spanish politics – and Valencia’s role in all the conflicts and controversies. It’s fascinating, for instance, to discover the different perspectives on the Valencian version of the Catalan language, and how these perspectives have served political ends – and continue to serve them. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in Spanish literature, history or politics. And for anyone who likes reading about present-day corruption in Spain, it’s a gold mine of information!

The Dead Sea and the Jordan River, by Barbara Kreiger, is also beautifully written. And again, the author has an extraordinary depth of knowledge about her subject matter, which is the Dead Sea. I’m at a point in the book where Kreiger is detailing the many expeditions made in the 19th century to try to answer age-old questions about the famous lake – for instance, how far below sea level does it lie? What happened to the ancient cities once bordering its shores and that seem to have completely vanished? Does it have any underground outlet to the Red Sea?

I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the geographical and cultural history of the Holy Land – and particularly to people who like to read about pioneering expeditions in extremely harsh environments.
Visit Richard Zimler's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Gospel According to Lazarus.

--Marshal Zeringue