Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of this review that I received in the New York Times, of my very first novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon:
Sixteenth-century Lisbon is a dangerous place, especially for Jews, who are living a half-hidden life on the run from the Spanish Inquisition. Instead of expelling them, Portugal's King Manuel sporadically tries to convert them by force, though these so-called New Christians usually continue to practice their beliefs in secret. But when political winds blow foul, the King sometimes loses control over the forces of religion and converts are burned at the stake, murdered or tortured. Against this menacing backdrop, Berekiah Zarco, a follower of the mystic kabalist tradition, goes about his life in Lisbon's Jewish quarter, the Alfama. But the course of his life changes all at once on a horrible spring night in 1506 when rioting breaks out and Berekiah returns home to discover his beloved uncle dead on the floor of the family's secret book cellar, next to the naked corpse of a young woman. Bent on revenge, Berekiah sets off in search of the killer, a man he is certain is a treacherous kabalist friend of his uncle. The trail takes him all over old Lisbon, and unraveling the mystery leads Berekiah to discover much about himself as well. Richard Zimler is an American who has lived in Portugal since 1990. His novel, first published in Portuguese, vividly re-creates the world of ancient Lisbon, presenting Berekiah's mysticism in graceful, albeit occasionally florid, prose. Zimler's portrait of the city (and the New Christians' uneasy place within it) enriches his many-layered narrative, in which a suitably complex cast of characters plays a dangerous game with fate.
Causes Richard Zimler Supports
Save the Children, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)