The Gospel According to British-Jewish Author Naomi Alderman

Talented Young Novelist Riffs On the New Testament

Preaching To The Choir: Naomi Alderman’s novel  focuses on the memories of four people who knew a dead preacher/rabbi/rebel named Yehoshua.
Naomi Alderman
Preaching To The Choir: Naomi Alderman’s novel focuses on the memories of four people who knew a dead preacher/rabbi/rebel named Yehoshua.

By Michael Goldfarb

Published April 04, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
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For example, a Jewish historian writing about Jews in 19th-century Europe cannot judge the community’s passivity in the face of profound anti-Semitism, and its willingness to make accommodations with its tormentors, with a post-Holocaust sensibility.

The reward for doing this hard work is that the author will have a new understanding of the motivations of people in their day-to-day lives. Then comes the next difficult step: translating your insights into actions and words. To do this, an author will very likely invent a new voice and style for telling the story.

This is precisely the process that Hilary Mantel used in “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” her phenomenally successful books about Henry VIII’s fixer-in-chief, Thomas Cromwell.

The British-Jewish novelist Naomi Alderman brings the same method to bear in her exceptional new book, “The Liars’ Gospel.” In it, Alderman takes on what Hollywood christened “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The result is a deeply researched, empathically imagined, ferociously told exploration of the Jew known as Jesus.

Starting with a prologue set in the inner courtyard of the Temple as Pompey’s army batters down Jerusalem’s walls in 63 BCE, she brings to life the world of a conquered Judea, perpetually in rebellion against Roman masters.

”The Liars’ Gospel” focuses on the memories of four people who knew a dead preacher/rabbi/rebel named Yehoshua. They are his mother, Miryam; one of his followers, Iehuda from Qeriot; the high priest Caiaphas, and a zealot leader, Bar Avo, chosen to live when Yehoshua is condemned to crucifixion.

Each of these character’s stories is familiar from the New Testament, but each is inventively reimagined.


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