My book Zombies of Byzantium has received a very interesting review! Much different than the book blogger, horror enthusiast or Amazon reviews it’s received so far, the book caught the attention of a group of Scandinavian scholars who run a site called the Nordic Byzantine Network–an interdisciplinary platform for Scandinavian academics to discuss various aspects of Byzantine history, art and culture.
In an article entitled “Cats and Zombies–Byzantium for Children of All Ages,” Ingela Nilsson considers Zombies of Byzantium in conjunction with two other depictions of Byzantium in fiction, both children’s books, Bertha in Byzanz by Mabi Angar and The Emperor’s Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh. Ingela’s essay discusses how all of these books, including mine, reflect the concept of “Otherness” in Byzantium, and how Byzantium itself seems alien and exotic to modern Western readers.
I hope the Nordic Byzantine Network won’t mind if I use a short quote from Ms. Nilsson’s article.
So do these three books have anything in common except for their literary setting being Byzantine Constantinople? Well, I actually think they do, in the sense that they all focus on Otherness – something I believe to be a rather common function of the Byzantine in literary ﬁction…The zombies may thus seem as the obviously Other element, but Stephen the monk is in fact an outsider in at least two senses: he’s a monk from a minor monastery in the province and he’s an iconographer in the time of iconoclasm…By contrast, the Byzantine setting – traditionally decadent and ‘dark’, especially the 7th and 8th centuries – is depicted as familiar and ‘normal’, since the narrator is, after all, Byzantine.
This is a really interesting take on the book, and one that I think is very illuminating. Thus far there have been only a few reviews that have attempted to evaluate Zombies of Byzantium from the standpoint of Byzantine history, as opposed to the horror angle.
Big thanks to the Nordic Byzantine Network for the mention and the analysis!