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When asked about the research processes involved in creating all this, Richard cited the internet and Google as a huge boon. He was able to search for quotes using specific words, and choose which quotes apply to his story. For example, if Yeshua and Lazarus are discussing chance and improbability, quotes related to these key words (and variants of them) can be used to help Yeshua and Lazarus navigate their discussions.
The decision to make Yeshua and Lazarus literate was intentional. Zimler has encountered work that constructs Jesus as illiterate and he does not find this convincing, so he sought to offer a contrasting version in his novel. From his research, Zimler believes that young Jewish men who showed ability in Jerusalem will have been educated. He believes that the historical Jesus’ magnetic charisma was developed by a good education, because he must have been an articulate and moving speaker. Who would teach this young, promising man? The ancient rabbis, of course. Ergo, a key text in his learning will have been the Old Testament.
Zimler believes this construction of Jesus is evidenced in the New Testament itself. Jesus arrives to Jerusalem on a donkey, which fulfils the Old Testament Prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9: “your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey…”). To Zimler, this is the intentional decision of a learned man who wants to evoke the Old Testament in his actions.
What if your beloved friend brings you back from the dead, and you see nothing of any afterlife? And what if that friend is the Jewish mystic Yeshua, who will come to be known as Jesus?
Yeshua’s miracles are stirring the authorities in Jerusalem, and Lazarus finds himself scrambling after his childhood companion during Passion Week, the turbulent final chapter in Yeshua’s life. Meanwhile Lazarus struggles to return to his work and family, feeling a great sense of fragility and lost identity since his return to the living world. He can’t help but wonder if he was resurrected to save Yeshua in his time of dire need…
Richard Zimler’s impeccably researched novel draws you into to Roman-controlled Jerusalem, the Jewish communities within it and the permeating Greek cultural influences. A cast of biblical figures, from Mary and Joseph to Mary Magdalene, are restored to their Jewish roots. Jesus is presented as a mystic within the practises and traditions of ancient Judaism. Zimler brings us a fascinating and highly moving read.
Richard Zimler’s eleven novels have been translated into twenty-three languages and have appeared on bestseller lists in twelve different countries, including the UK, United States, Australia, Brazil, Italy and Portugal. Richard is Jewish and American. He grew up in New York and since 1990 has lived in Porto, Portugal with his husband.
The Lost Gospel of Lazarus was partly inspired by the death of his brother by AIDS. He would return to Richard in recurring dreams as a resurrected but deeply changed and troubled man. This was the genesis for Richard’s Lazarus. The novel was also inspired by a desire to return biblical characters to their Jewish cultural roots, and deals with how Jesus’ legacy was handled by early Christians.
A note from the Author:
My goal with The Lost Gospel of Lazarus was to create an immensely moving and insightful page-turner. I wanted to breathe new life into the New Testement story of Lazarus, turning it into a fast-paced tale of deep friendship, murderous betrayal, magical beliefs and – in the end – redemption.
The Jerusalem of this novel – and indeed of this time – is multicultural. Lazarus and Jesus (who in this book is called Yeshua), have an interesting command of Latin, Greek and Aramaic words. Zimler constructs puns and wordplay that enrich the story and reveal the close connection between the two men.
Richard identifies ancient graffiti as a key inspiration. During this time, there was graffiti on monuments and public furniture, which demonstrated regular people using language in comedic, clever, and satirical ways. To replicate this himself, Richard made lists of Greek, Latin and Aramaic words and would play with them as a poet would.
It was important for this wordplay not to become a distraction to the story. If it didn’t make sense in the context, or didn’t further the story, Richard cut it. He dislikes writing by overly-clever authors who always bring attention back to their own intelligence or sensitivity, and so was careful when using wordplay.
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