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Richard Zimler

Author's picture by © Lara Jacinto


I’ve always spoken to dogs and cats and birds and trees and flowers and even to insects like praying mantises that won’t be tempted to bite or sting me.

Greeting them makes me feel as if I’m part of a friendly world (even if I’m not).

And I find it impossible to believe that it does them any harm.

Unless I were to tell a long and boring story, of course; no one, not even a lady bug wants to be bored by a stranger.

On occasion, I have also had conversations with walls and chairs and tables.

When I engage them in a chat, I may be crossing over into the land of lunacy, but who can say for sure?

Just because a ladder doesn’t reply doesn’t mean it isn’t listening.

I notice I talk less to animals and plants and inanimate objects these days, however.

The mask stifles the urge.

Perhaps in compensation, I find that I talk a lot more to them in my mind.

And I send out messages of greeting and good health to everyone I see who’s wearing a mask.

(I’ll refrain from telling you what I say in silence to those who refuse to wear masks, but it isn’t very nice.)

I’ve also always talked to the characters in books.

Yes, I’ve told Hester Prynne that she had the ill fortune to be born too early and thanked Boo Radley for saving Scout and asked Medusa how in God’s name did she end up with winged venomous snakes for hair.

If you’ve read A Christmas Carol, then you can probably guess that I’ve also told Ebenezer Scrooge to fuck off and get a life and start acting like a mensch.

And maybe he was listening, because that’s exactly what happens to him in the end.

So maybe everything we see and hear and think about is in contact with everything else.

Or maybe not.

It doesn’t really matter, because I’m 65 years old now and I don’t really believe I’ll ever know for sure.

So I talk to whoever or whatever I want, aloud or in my head, and though I don’t necessarily expect any replies, I do indeed hope that it does me and them a little bit of good.


Richard Zimler was born in New York. His novels have been translated into 23 languages and have appeared on bestseller lists in twelve different countries, including the United States, UK, Australia, Brazil, Italy and Portugal. Five of his works have been nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award, the richest prize in the English-speaking world, and he has won prizes for his fiction in America, France, Portugal and the UK. Several of his novels explore the lives of different branches and generations of a Portuguese-Jewish family, the Zarcos. The author refers to it as his Sephardic Cycle. His latest novel in the English-speaking world is The Gospel According to Lazarus. It was named as one of the Best Books of 2019 by the Sunday Times. He has lived in Porto, Portugal since 1990 and has both Portuguese and American nationality. He was awarded the city’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, in 2017.

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