Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Richard Zimler's THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS: Giving Uniqueness Back to Our Dead

Richard Zimler's profoundly moving historical thriller The Warsaw Anagrams goes on sale tomorrow. Set in a Jewish ghetto during World War II, The Warsaw Anagrams won Portugal’s Marques de Ouro Prize in 2010 and now, at last, is available to American readers.

Zimler, author of The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, has written 8 novels over the last 15 years that have been translated into 22 languages and been bestsellers in 12 countries. Born and educated in New York, Zimler now lives and teaches in Portugal.
Here's what some of the early reviewers are saying:

“Wrenching and raw, The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler is an historical suspense novel as unique as it is compelling. This chilling novel explores themes of loss, survival, deprivation and the resilience of the human spirit; and while it contains several disturbing and graphic scenes essential to describing the horrors of ghetto life, Zimler’s skill as a writer is without question. . . .The anagrams in the book’s title refer to the scrambling of letters in names to guard identities—but the word puzzles end up resonating more deeply as the novel is resolved. – ForeWord Magazine

"As he did so brilliantly in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon (1998), Zimler builds a riveting mystery around one of the most horrific moments in Jewish history. In 1940, following the German invasion of Poland, the Warsaw ghetto, once a vibrant Jewish neighborhood, became a walled-in prison, its inhabitants forced to exist with little food, inadequate heat and sanitation, and a future even bleaker than the present. Erik Cohen, formerly a prominent psychiatrist, lives with his niece and young nephew, Adam. Then, in the dead of winter, Adam goes missing, his mutilated body eventually discovered in the barbed-wire enclosure that separates the ghetto from the rest of the city. Vowing to find the killer (soon other, similarly slain Jewish children are discovered), Erik attempts to investigate, finding that the trail seems to point toward a Jewish traitor. Moving back and forth in time, Zimler brings the dailiness of life in the ghetto—both its overwhelming horror and claustrophobia and its moments of startling humanity—to vivid, sometimes unbearable life, all in the context of a nightmare version of the classic locked-room mystery. Gripping and deeply disturbing. - Booklist

“Zimler, who examined the slaughter of Jews in 16th-century Portugal in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, explores a different dark period in the Jewish people’s history in this solid mystery thriller. In 1940, psychiatrist Erik Cohen moves into the Warsaw ghetto before the Nazis force him to do so, along with his niece, Stefa, and his beloved great nephew, Adam, who appears to be about nine. Cohen is frantic when the boy vanishes and is beyond distraught when Adam’s corpse is located with the child’s right leg severed from the knee down. Determined to track down the killer, Cohen has further cause for alarm after discovering that Adam was not the murderer’s only victim; that Benjamin Schrei, a representative of the ghetto’s Jewish Council, knew the killing was part of a series; and that a Jew might be responsible for the butchery. The highly unusual setting adds tension to the investigation, and Zimler successfully manages to convey the horrors of the Holocaust through the experiences of one family.” – Publishers Weekly

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