Richard Zimler, a giant among mystery writers who brings the genre to a higher level

As one of the prominent areas of genre fiction, the thriller simultaneously engages, educates and scares its readers. Those who write within the genre need to be capable of skilled craftsmanship and, as Lindsay Parnell argues, few contemporary writers have captured the suspense and dark atmosphere of the true thriller like the American author Richard Zimler.


Richard Zimler completed his Bachelor’s Degree in comparative religion at Duke University before receiving his Masters in journalism from Stanford. Subsequently, Zimler taught journalism at a collegiate level for nearly twenty years in both the US and Portugal – where he has been a citizen since 2002. Known for his narrative fusions of Jewish spirituality and historical noir thrillers, Zimler’s body of work consists of eight critically acclaimed novels that have received international recognition from Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Portugal among others. Zimler’s literary preoccupation with the heroic search for spirituality during devastating religious and political conflicts has proven to transcend linguistic and geographic boundaries. His collection of novels are intriguing tales of personal and public history in the midst of violent turmoil. This is especially true of his three most notable texts: The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, The Warsaw Anagrams and Guardian of the Dawn.

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Middle East Literature — Introducing Sadeq Hedayat’s The Blind Owl: Iran’s Haunting Classic

One of the most revered names in Iranian literature, Sadeq Hedayat left behind an oeuvre that is mesmerising, petrifying and puzzling. Dubbed the father of ‘psycho-fiction’, or the Iranian Franz Kafka, he is best known for his haunting The Blind Owl, a novel telling of death, loss and psychosis. We bring you Dr. Homa Katouzian’s introduction to Sadeq Hedayat’s The Blind Owl, his dramatic life and other works.

Sadegh Hedayat in Paris
Sadegh Hedayat in Paris — 1928

Sadeq Hedayat was born on 17 February 1903 and died on 9 April 1951. He was descended from Rezaqoli Khan Hedayat, a notable 19th century poet, historian of Persian literature and author of Majma’ al-Fosaha, Riyaz al-’Arefin and Rawza al-Safa-ye Naseri. Many members of his extended family were important state officials, political leaders and army generals, both in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hedayat is the author of The Blind Owl, the most famous Persian novel both in Iran and in Europe and America. Many of his short stories are in a critical realist style and are regarded as some of the best written in 20th century Iran. But his most original contribution was the use of modernist, more often surrealist, techniques in Persian fiction. Thus, he was not only a great writer, but also the founder of modernism in Persian fiction.

Having studied at the exclusive St Louis French missionary school in Tehran, Hedayat went to Europe, supported by a state grant, spending a year in Belgium in 1926–27, a year and a half in Paris in 1928–29, two terms in Reims in 1929 and a year in Besançon in 1929–30. Having still not finished his studies, he surrendered his scholarship and returned home in the summer of 1930. This provides a clue to his personality in general, and his perfectionist outlook in particular, which sometimes resulted in nervous paralysis.

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Circus meets Literature: An Interview with Bianco’s Firenza Guidi

Bianco is the 2013 creation by the UK-based circus company ‘NoFitState’. Created and directed by Firenza Guidi, this captivating show uses The Elephant’s Journey by Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago as its inspiration. We talk to Guidi, asking her about this fusion of circus and literature.


At what point in the creation did The Elephant’s Journey become involved with the show? Was the book the catalyst for the creation of Bianco, or was it a less overt inspiration?

When I read the book I was charmed by the simplicity of the story: An elephant (sent as an unusual wedding present) and its motley cortège journey on foot across the whole of Europe. Everywhere the elephant brings awe, bewilderment, wonder – transforming people’s lives. It struck me that Saramago’s convoy resonates with circus: a village, a community, a travelling world. Bianco is not an adaptation of Saramago’s novel but the book was there from the very beginning of the creation, like a wonderful reservoir of images and ideas. We used the words to fuel the performers’ imagination and wondrous echoes for some of the scenes.

But my fascination with Saramago started well before The Elephant’s Journey. The truth is that all Saramago’s writing is inspirational and not only in terms of content or storyline, but also in terms of form. Saramago only uses commas to punctuate his writing. This creates a flow, a pace and a rhythm that belongs to the here-and-now of spoken language, as if the reader was part of a thinking process.

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Feature — Exploring India’s Dark Heart: On Jeet Thayil and his novel ‘Narcopolis’

Jeet Thayil has taken the subcontinent’s publishing scene by storm since the publication of ‘Narcopolis’, which documents the underworld of contemporary Mumbai and has won an array of prizes.


Jeet Thayil is now being hailed as the leading light of a new generation of Indian novelists. It seems unbecoming to admit it, but the prime reason for my initial interest in Thayil and his work stemmed from the man’s family relationships. Born in Kerala, Thayil is the son of TJS George – the columnist extraordinaire – who writes hard-hitting articles on politics and society for the New Indian Express. His sister too, is a well-known journalist. Thayil was married to Shakti Bhatt, a revered blogger and editor. Tragically, she passed away in 2007, at a very young age, of a brief illness. She was immensely popular amongst literary circles, and the government has even instituted an award in her honour.

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Dialogue – From “Good Warm Sad Blood Spilling Out in the Forest”

Heather Christle, Matthew Rohrer, Zachary  Schomburg, and Matthew Zapruder talk about surrealism.


MZ: Basing the “hardness” or “softness” of surrealism on whether or not it challenges “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing,” is not only ahistorical but beside the point. It’s like saying, “I like grandma’s meatloaf better than your meatloaf because your meatloaf is too coercive.” Coerciveness may or may not be an important value in meatloaf-eater relations, but it’s not what grandma or you were thinking about when you were making your meatloaves. Likewise, you can say “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing” are the most important things to think about in every act of writing—I mean, that’s an opinion you can, tragically, have—but it wasn’t what Breton or James Tate or anyone else under discussion was thinking about.

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On Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged”

“There are two sides to every issue: One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.” — Ayn Rand’s hero John Galt speaking in “Atlas Shrugged”


Atlas Shrugged, which Ayn Rand wrote in 1957 as a culmination of her ideas and literary career, is a giant, both literally and figuratively. While it is also a fictional book with a compelling story, it is also a clear expression of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, an idea that has had a large influence on the conservative side of American politics. Despite its heft, reading Atlas Shrugged will grant you greater understanding in both literature and politics — although it’s probably best not to take on any of the characteristics of the main characters.

With adoring fans, rabid critics and very few in between, why does Atlas Shrugged evoke such impassioned responses? Because it grapples with the fundamental problems of human existence — and presents radically new answers.

Atlas a dramatization of her unique vision of existence and of man’s highest potential. Twelve years in the writing, it is her masterwork.

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Books — Friendship and Survival: Individual Stories Behind the French Resistance

‘Resistance, Friendship and Survival’ are the central themes in the work of two writers; Caroline Moorehead and Michèle Roberts who focus on the individual stories behind the French resistance. In their works Ignorance and A Train in the Winter, these two writers explore the ways in which conflict impacts on the lives of ordinary people in a myriad of different ways.


Caroline Moorehead’s book, A Train in the Winter, tells the story of a group of French women, deported because they were communists and active participants in the Resistance, who experienced the atrocity of German concentration camps. Although her female characters are passionate enough to get close to mythology, her story cannot offer a different, positive ending. Her message deals with survival and friendship, fundamental ingredients of all political Resistance. The old paradigm of history being made by men and narrated by men, is radically overturned by Moorehead. With her, history has female speakers with female points of view, and unveils aspects of European history which tend to be underestimated.

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Interview — Wrestling With the Gods: A Private Conversation With Nick Nolte

nick-nolteIn shooting the documentary ‘Nick Nolte: No Exit’ (available On Demand via Sundance Selects), director Tom Thurman concocted a rather existential ploy to bring out the burly, intimidating seventy-three year-old actor’s vulnerable side: he assigned Nolte to literally interview himself. Hopefully, this oddball tactic would uncover the true Nolte, who in the past notoriously relished in embellishment.

“I’m known for being a liar,” Nolte said. “I lied for a living and I lied in my interviews. It got boring after twenty years. People have said to me, after interviews, ‘I really wished you answered that motherfucker’s question!'”

To avoid that escapism, Thurman and Nolte, who became friends while filming Thurman’s ‘Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film,’ developed a series of deeply intimate questions, several of which would probably catch Nolte off guard if an actual journalist posed them. In one day, Thurman shot footage of Nolte as slick reporter, sheepishly grilling Nolte the actor; the very next day, he filmed a wearier-looking Nolte answering his own questions, sometimes wistfully, sometimes sarcastically. Nostalgic slides of Nolte in his salad days were projected at random onto a computer throughout the “interview,” further derailing him.
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