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Authors: Graham Joyce

Requiem

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Requiem

 

 

by Graham Joyce

 

 

G&S Books

 

 

Requiem is a work of fiction.  All characters and events
portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously.

Copyright © Graham Joyce 1995.  All rights reserved.

This E-book edition first published 2013 by G&S Books.

Graham Joyce is a multiple award winning author.  He grew up
in the mining village of
Keresley
near
Coventry.  In 1988 he quit his job as a youth officer and decamped to the
Greek island of Lesbos, there to live in a beach shack with a colony of
scorpions and to concentrate on writing. He sold his first novel while still in
Greece and travelled in the Middle East on the proceeds.  He is a winner
of The World Fantasy Award; is five-times winner of the British Fantasy Award
for Best Novel; is twice winner of the French Grand Prix De
L'Imaginaire
;
and was the winner of the American O Henry short story award in 2009.

His website is:
www.grahamjoyce.co.uk
.  He tweets as
Grahamjoycebook

Other
novels by Graham Joyce:

Dreamside (Kindle available)

Dark Sister (Kindle available)

House Of Lost Dreams

The Tooth Fairy (Kindle available)

The
Stormwatcher

Leningrad Nights

Indigo

Smoking Poppy

The Facts Of Life

The Limits Of Enchantment

Memoirs Of A Master Forger by William Heaney/ How To Make Friends
With Demons

The Silent Land

Some Kind Of Fairy Tale

(Short stories):

Partial Eclipse & Other Short Stories

Tales For A Dark Evening (Kindle available)

(
Children & Young Adult novels
):

Spiderbite

TWOC

Do The Creepy Thing (Kindle available)

Three ways To
Snog
An Alien

The Devil’s Ladder

(
Non-fiction
):

Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular

 

Requiem: author's introduction

 

Requiem
was first
published in 1995.
 
Seven years before
publication I had quit a well-paid job in the UK and decamped to the Greek
islands in order to write.
  
On the
islands of Lesbos and Crete I lived on the coast with my wife Suzanne and wrote
the novel
Dreamside.
 
A kind of fairy tale happened in that
after a year in Greece and having run out of funds I submitted my novel to an
agent and while preparing to return to England we heard that the book had been
sold to a publisher.
  
On the strength of
this we borrowed some money and did some more travelling in the Middle-East.

We took ferries from Greece to Cyprus and from Cyprus to
Israel, sleeping on deck with other young travellers.
  
Our
 
principle target was
Luxor
and the temples of
Egypt; but it was of course impossible to pass through Israel without exploring
the archaeology of the bible lands and spending some time in Jerusalem
itself.
 
May I say as an incorrigible
atheist that going to Jerusalem was an overwhelming experience.

As a Sunday school boy I was brought up on bible stories and
so I was astonished to see the sights and scent the smells of some of the places
associated with my spiritual education.
  
While I was in Jerusalem nothing converted me from my benighted atheism
but plenty of things gave me an insight into some of the virtues of the monumental
religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, to give them their chronological
order.
 
But nothing could have prepared
me for the grand folly that seems to be an inevitable feature of human
attachment to each of these religions.
 
Wisdom, insight and resplendent teaching seem in this city to be
commensurate with ignorance, stupidity and low instinct.
 
The great shining light that falls in one
location of the city only makes the shadows darker and more dangerous in
another place.

Of course, it is humanity, not the city itself, that
formulates this dazzling beauty and crass foolhardiness at the same
moment.
 
The city is just a reflecting
mirror, cracked and distorted.
 
I would
say to any writer visiting the place that their heads would become instantly
stuffed with story ideas.
 
A crime writer
would
 
detect the perfect location in the
narrow alleys and the bustling souks; a romance writer would find a
star-crossed love available across the strictly define quarters of the old
town; a thriller writer would note three thousand years of politics as a
backdrop; a writer of the supernatural would pen something very like or very
unlike the novel you hold in your hands.
 
What is in your mind right now?
 
The city will breathe it back at you, but with incense and mystery and
love and violence.

I'm not claiming to be any less stupid or susceptible that
the next person.
  
On the contrary, I'm a
sucker for any good story.
 
But the most
intriguing thing about the city is this capacity to take the human mind and to
reflect back at it a fallacious hologram.
 
It shows you that which you most want to see.
 
It supports grand delusions and it uses real
bricks and mortar and the dust of history to do so.
  
All of the Christian locations available for
you to see - wonderful archaeological edifices that they are - are fake.
 
They were erected many hundreds of years
after the event of the crucifixion.
 
Even
the so called Way Of Sorrows with all the stations of the cross are actually a
Crusader route through the town, built almost a millennium after Christ.
 
Similarly the Jews worshipping at the Wailing
Wall of King David's temple are actually nodding at and stuffing notes in the
cracks of a wall built by King Herod.
 
Jerusalem is a kind of Theme park, a religious Disneyworld, even though
a very old one.
 
The archaeological
evidence is known, published, expounded, agreed... and roundly ignored by the
faithful who would rather kiss a meaningless stone than be swayed by
scholarship and learning.

It was this passionate willingness to accept a plain
falsehood that triggered the novel.
  
I
also discovered something called "Jerusalem Syndrome".
 
It seems the city's mental asylums are
groaning under the burden of tourists who arrive in Jerusalem and
 
- either because they are disappointed or
over-stimulated - experience psychotic episodes.

Jerusalem is a place where you are quite likely to witness
violence.
 
A sense of menace hangs over
the place, and not just because of the political tensions between Palestinians
and Israelis.
 
Punch-ups between
Christian monks of rival sects are not uncommon around the Holy Sepulchre of
the Prince of Peace.
 
You think I'm
making this up?
 
Everyone - monks, spivs,
taxi drivers, hustlers, con-men, beggars - are out to shake you down for a few
shekels.
 
That behaviour probably represents
a true unbroken line since the time Jesus overturned the tables of the rip-off
money-changers and dove-sellers.
 
It's
hard to trust anyone for even a second.
 
We were hit up for money by Arabs and screamed at by ultra-orthodox Jews
for the sexual provocation of touching my wife's elbow to steer her across a
road busy with traffic.
 
It's a lively
place.

Anyway, while I was there I experienced my own momentary
hallucination.
 
Whether it was from a long
ferry journey or something spicy I'd recklessly bought from a street vendor,
the ground underneath me was trembling.
 
I looked up and saw an Israeli soldier, looking down on me from the wall
of the old city.
 
The hot sun was behind him
and his Uzi machine gun was slung low.
 
I
blinked, and he was a Roman soldier with a metal breast-plate, and his Uzi had
become a short sword hanging at his side.
 
This wasn't a fancy - I actually thought I saw it -
 
and it made my troubled guts squeeze.
 
I blinked a second time and he was a
modern-day Israeli soldier again.

I think I knew then that the situation in Jerusalem will
never resolve.
 
The spiritual force that
breathes out of the city is the same thing that manufactures the never-ending
chain of violence
 
hawking the land.
  
I don't know of another place on earth quite
like it.

Although I was looking for my next novel when I travelled to
this extraordinary place, it would be five years - and three novels (two
published, one binned) before I would come back to this subject matter and the
setting of Jerusalem.
 
I always think
experience needs to be mulched before it becomes properly usable in a
novel.
 
Requiem was tricky to write.
 
I don't find any books "easy" to
write, but some do come out like loaves from a baker's oven. Others fail to
rise or are misshapen or - to continue the metaphor - stick messily to the
sides of the baking tin. You have to spend a much longer time fixing up.
 
I was half way through Requiem and it just
wasn't working.

The story is partly about misogyny and in my early drafts my
protagonist was female.
 
With over half
the novel written and with more than little dismay I realised my female
protagonist had to become male.
  
You
can't have women on a journey to discover how misogynistic the world is: they
already know that all too well. So she became a he.
 
I had to go right back to the beginning and
rethink all of it.

It might seem outrageous to treat the
crucifixon
as a kind of sub-plot to the novel.
 
But
I had done enough reading around the history of the early Christian movement to
see that the historical Jesus must have been married and that the woman known
as Mary Magdalene was a spiritual teacher - possibly Canaanite - and not a
lowly prostitute at all.
 
Christian
misogyny evolved much later and is a fascinating subject in its own right.
 
Incidentally I published this story eight
years before
the De Vinci Code
was
published.
 
I'd read
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
 
some years before travelling to Jerusalem,
plus a lot of other stuff supporting the idea that Jesus had a wife who was
effectively written out of the scriptures a few hundred years after the
event.
 
Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls
offer a very different picture of the historical Jesus and the Vatican has of
course to this day refused to let anyone see certain of those Scrolls.
 
Scholarship and the Vatican have never been
on friendly terms.
 
Perhaps the most
interesting book I read in preparation for writing
Requiem
was Barbara
Thiering's
Jesus The Man.
 
Thiering's
ideas have had about as much success with Christian scholars as Mary Magdalene
could be said to have had after Paul took control of the church.
 
Whatever you make of it, her book constructs
a fascinating theory.

I wrote this book almost twenty years ago and I do hope that
I have improved as a writer since then.
  
At the time of its publication it won me two things: a British Fantasy
Award for best novel of the year, and a letter from a Greek Orthodox priest who
claimed to be excommunicating me.
 
I
don't know how you get to be excommunicated from a church of which you were
never a member, but since just for a moment it had me dining at the
 
same table as the wonderful Greek writer
 
Nicos
Kazantikis
I'm prepared to let that detail pass.

BOOK: Requiem
6.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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