Friday, February 23, 2018

Richard Zimler - The Gospel According to Lazarus

In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus resurrected a beloved friend named Lazarus from the dead. Yet the Gospel of John – which contains this episode – does not tell us how Jesus accomplished this miracle or if he had a special purpose for saving his companion. The Gospel of John offers us only two more important details about Lazarus: that his notoriety attracted crowds to Jesus’ appearances and that he found himself menaced by Annas, a former High Priest of the Temple. The revived man’s fate clearly became tied to that of Jesus, who, because of his political and spiritual activism, had also earned the wrath of Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current High Priest. For what purpose did Jesus revive his dear friend? How will the events of Passion week affect Lazarus’ unique understanding of Jesus’ purpose, as well as test their friendship and love? In The Gospel According to Lazarus, Richard Zimler narrates this mysterious and influential story from Lazarus’ own point of view. His impeccably researched novel reveals itself in alluring layers, and his intensely moving exploration of Jesus’ final week from the point of view of his childhood friend adds a level of poignancy and desperation to the story that is certain to disturb some readers and greatly touch others. 

Comment: The person who usually lends me books gave me this book last week and I couldn't say no to it, first because that would be rude and also because I like the author's work a lot.
This is the most recent book published by the author, it's from 2016 but as far as I've seen, it has only been published in Portuguese so far (the author lives in my country and has double nationality). It seems it's only going to be released in english later on. I got this information here, the same place I got the english sort-of blurb.

This story focuses on Lazarus, he is the narrator of this tale that starts immediately after his resurrection by Jesus. Now Lazarus needs to deal with the way others see him as someone special at the same time the conspiracy against Jesus escalates. This is a story about friendship and possibilities and perhaps about how a single act might change a whole lot even if we don't see it right away.

I'm catholic but I like to read things about religious figures in a non doctrine way. I can have my beliefs and still look at some things through metaphor eyes, which I'm sure it's the way to read religious texts such as the Bible. Must we believe all those words are the only truth? For some it is so, I bet, but if we only consider the fact the Bible texts were written years and decades after the supposed situations happened, how credible they can really be? In this book, however, that is only a side effect of thinking about this. The real focus is Lazarus, his life and what he experienced after his resurrection. What I mean to say is that despite whatever one believes in, this book isn't a religious preaching, only a perspective of what might have happened to those people.

The best thing about this book is the same about all Zimler's books: the writing. There are beautifully written passages and that's where we can see he has a talent for saying things in the best way. This is not a book about being religious, about God and Jesus being the mighty ones, it's a story about known characters and the everyday routines they had. But those apparently little scenes, the ways of life, the difficulties poor people like the ones mentioned the most faced in what was basically a divided and unbalanced society, these are the real interesting parts. I did like to put myself in those days and imagine things from an historical POV.

Of course what we are reading about might not be very realistic. The author has done a huge amount of research, he is as methodic and correct as possible and based his story on published texts, on all the details that have gotten to the public so far about Bible figures and the historical customs of how life was during the roman empire in the region.
The everyday steps however are pure imagination and only link the more important moments we have come to know about by reading Bible passages. But those moments come to life beautifully and it was such a pleasure to travel to those people's homes and lives and see what might have been. But the imagining it is half way to be able to create our own ideas...

I liked the book, the descriptions, the thoughts. The author points out important and realistic historical situations and contexts but he never tries to make us think only one way (or his way) as the only possible way to see things.
It does make you wonder about what really happened to people who now seem larger than life but must have been as ordinary as you and me...
Grade: 9/10

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