Monday, September 10, 2012

Lazarus is Dead

Full Disclosure: I won this as an ARC copy from the Goodreads giveaway.  I was pretty excited to have won this one - generally I'm thrilled to win a book, but I really do love Europa as a publisher. No, they didn't tell me to say that. Yes, I actually really do think have favourite publishers.

Lazarus raising from the dead is the last, and arguably most famous of Jesus's public miracles resulting in two of the most famous Biblical quotes: "I am the resurrection and the life" and "Jesus Wept". The thing is only John mentions Lazarus - and that was written about 100 years after the other Gospels, and the problem with John, as well all know (do we all know this? My uncle used to be a Benedictine monk. Maybe this isn't common knowledge) John is... less dependable. Beard himself says it hilariously well "Mark is considered the most factually accurate. Matthew and Luke base their accounts on Mark, while John is closer to the kind of writing known today as creative non-fiction." So yes. Creative non-fiction. Historical Fact.

Whatever. Anyways. Beard's novel focus around the detail that Lazarus is described as Jesus' friend - something Jesus has few of. Why is it Lazarus' death that causes Jesus to weep? Why did the first three gospel writers omit Lazarus from their version of historical record? Beard traces the history of Jesus' friendship with Lazarus, then their more adult lives. I don't really want to get into much detail here (because you know. Spoilers) so I'm going to tell you what I think about the book.In the best possible way, I don't actually know what to make of the book. Stylistically, Beard is close to perfect, flippant but never trivial, and enough probability is added to the core of Lazarus's story to make you care about his eventual fate (or you know, one of the two options that Beard gives. Which is true? Who knows). But about the book itself I don't actually know quite what to make of it. It bounces between speculative fiction and more realistic textual analysis. It's a made up (or not) (but maybe?) (but really, too complex a debate for Goodreads) Biography of the man who was arguably Jesus' only friend.

Complicated, I know.

When you read it you'll understand.Lazarus is Dead is arguably the most unusual and original book I've read in a while and I read a lot of odd books. Call it speculative fiction, or whatever you want, and go get a copy when it comes out. It's very very much well worth a read. You'll probably put it down and be a little confused and fairly thoughtful about what is fiction, what is fact and the stories none of us know, but wish we did.

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