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Speaking for the Silenced - a talk by Richard Zimler
Until the middle of the 20th Century, almost all historical texts were written from the point of view of the people who won the wars and elections. This is still largely the case in many countries, where those who have been defeated have had their suffering minimized or completely excluded from serious discussion. For instance, in the America in which I grew up, we did not spend more than a few hours in high school exploring the culture, traditions and history of the Native Americans. In Portugal, where I have lived for 32 years, the Portuguese Jews have largely been eliminated from school textbooks and standard history books. What little information does exist often includes misinformation and lies. Even the Lisbon Massacre of 1506, in which two thousand forcibly converted Jews were murdered and burnt in the main square, was nearly completely forgotten until I wrote my novel The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. One of my objectives in researching and writing historical novels is to try to right this wrong: to explore the lives – and struggles – of those who have been systemically shunned, minimized and silenced. I regard this as an essential – and highly subversive – project and I’m proud of the influence that my books about Jewish-Portuguese history have had all over the world but especially in Portugal. In my talk, I plan to focus on what I have discovered about Portuguese-Jewish history and how I’ve explored the lives of Sephardic Jews in my books. I will also speak about how this relates my new novel, The Incandescent Threads.

Nov 15, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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