Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Return of the Slow Mirror

I mentioned a short film by Richard Zimler a posting or two back, being shown at Jewish Book Week... Back in 1996 Sonja Lyndon and Sylvia Paskin were editing a book of "New Fiction by Jewish Writers" for Five Leaves. Most of the short stories came in following a note round writers we knew, and the grapevine did the rest. Out of the blue though came a short story called "The Slow Mirror" by a writer none of us had heard of; Richard Zimler, an American living in Portugal. Immediately that became the title story of the collection. It was very good. Curious, we wrote to Richard asking who he was, what had he done... it did not feel like the work of a complete novice. He said he was, essentially, an unpublished writer and he had this novel which his ex-agent had failed to place... and he sent The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, which could be described as a kind of Jewish Name of the Rose. At Five Leaves towers we loved it... but what to do? If we had published it at the time we'd have printed 750 copies, sold 500 and had a review in a Jewish paper or two. And this was too good. At the time we knew someone in a fairly big indie publishing house in America and asked them to read it. They loved it, bought it, sold UK rights to Arcadia who sold 75,000 copies of the trade ie posh edition, followed by a mass market edition. It sold to many languages and Richard has never looked back. We were thrilled. Five Leaves could not have done that, nor could we now.
But what a collection that was... it contained a story by Zvi Jagendorf which was later turned into a Booker longlist title and one by Tamar Yellin that also became a novel. Contributors Jonathan Wilson and Shaun Levin joined our list with later books, and we published a "classic" by Frederic Raphael. Michelene Wandor has appeared in several parts of our list. One decade soon we'll finally publish a Jewish lesbian anthology edited by another contributor, our friend Ellen Galford who we see from time to time at the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society.
Now Richard Zimler has made a short film. It will be at Jewish Book Week on February 28, at the New North London Synagogue on February 26 and won the Best Dram Award at the New York Downtown Short Film Festival. Richard will also be speaking about his latest book The Warsaw Anagrams at Keats House in London on March 17 in an event organised by Daunt's.

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