The intriguingly-titled “The Golden Eggs of Sacramontes” is a recent serio-comic novel by the little-known Israeli author David Herman who recently gave a first public reading of his work to an enthralled audience in Holzer’s Bookshop in central Jerusalem.
In this self-interview, author Herman answers his own questions to unlock the secrets behind the creation of this unusual novel.
A few words about yourself, David.
I was born in England quite long ago when Hitler was bombing London. Being both English and Jewish and then a Cambridge graduate is a promising start for any writer.
On top of it all I lived in Chelsea, and this figures prominently in the novel. Coming from a Zionistic religious family (my great-great grandfather Rabbi Dov Berish Meisels was the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw and Cracow) it was only natural for me to make Aliya in 1966 and settle in Jerusalem.
Can you explain the intriguing title?
It’s quite simple really. The Golden Eggs refer to those produced at very regular intervals by the hero of the novel, the previously underachieving 43 year old Englishman Cedric Bates, who, as a result, achieves undreamed of wealth which eventually leads him to rescue the long-suffering crypto-Jews in the village of Sacramontes in Portugal and lead them home to Israel.
What inspired you suddenly to write about a man who produces golden eggs?
For long I was intrigued by the legend of the goose that laid the golden eggs, and so I carried this a step further and created the character of Cedric Bates, the first man in recorded history to have laid golden eggs (perhaps subconsciously too I rather fancied the idea of self-producing untold wealth with all its comic possibilities). On the other hand, it is not a condition for a normal person to wish for, and Cedric suffers deep qualms until coming to terms with his fortune/misfortune.
The novel has a very dramatic and amusing opening. How have people reacted?
At first people were shocked to read an opening that takes place in a toilet. But that is where, quite obviously, Cedric experiences his first egg-ejection, and the horrifying truth dawns. In fact the first chapter is entitled From Bowels to Bowl and the original title of the novel was The GoldenToilet Bowl. So obviously this had a very profound bearing on the creation of the novel.
Has any of your personal life experience gone into Cedric’ character creation?
Well, yes it has. The swift passage from a humdrum impoverished existence to an elevated social status and wealth certainly resonates with me. Also my Jewish background has helped me to convert Cedric to Judaism and synagogue membership. Finally, the mission entrusted to him by his 16th century ancestor Umberto Ouvos de Oro from the Auto da Fe owes much to my longstanding interest in the Marranos’ history and literature. And also the fact that Israel figures prominently in the dramatic ending.
Why is this novel so amusing?
The fun arises from a wealth of hilarious situations which the hero finds himself in, with larger-than-life characters like Fred Davinci, the precious metals expert at Northeby’s, or Mr. Swete-Harte, Cedric’s hard-hearted little bank manager. But much of the amusement arises from a pun-ful richly eggsaggerated literary style replete with metaphor and wordplay. As one critic has so accurately defined it: “A work of comic genius with serious undertones. Eggzilarating!”
Is this your first novel?
Actually it’s my second. The first was written back in the 1980’s for the Jerusalem International Book Fair, in the days when I was myself a publisher of simplified English teaching newspapers for the Israeli school system. The novel was also a serio-comic novel called “Bestseller,” based on my own personal experience as a publisher. But it was unique since it was perhaps the only novel in English ever to be set against the background of the Jerusalem Book Fair.
What future do you see for the novel?
If a man like Cedric Bates can produce golden eggs, so I fully expect that one of these days, when the right publisher comes along, my novel will also produce gold on a massive scale and in its wake will come a major film production to put my little gold fiction fantasy on the world’s silver screens.
*You can find David Herman’s reading of the opening chapter of The Golden Eggs of Sacramontes” on the Youtube. For copies of “Bestseller” and The Golden Eggs of Sacramontes” contact 02-6536764 or firstname.lastname@example.org