Page 52. " I think I might be a lamed vovnik. "

Alma’s younger brother, Bird, thinks he might be a lamed vovnik – one of 36 righteous individuals who, according to Jewish tradition, are alive at any one time and are potential messiahs. This mystical concept originates from a statement in the Talmud, which is the central text outlining Jewish customs, law, ethics, philosophy and history.

Portrait of Eramus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby (1792)
Public DomainPortrait of Eramus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby (1792) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Born in 1731, Erasmus Darwin was an English physician, philosopher, abolitionist, inventor, poet and all-round genius who wrote primarily about natural history and evolution. The History of Love includes the words, “Hence without parents, by spontaneous birth, rise the first specks of animated earth”, which are taken from Darwin’s famous work, Temple of Nature. This poem was published following Darwin’s sudden death in 1802 and outlines his belief in biological evolution, which was considered a radical notion at the time.

Known to be charming, kind and open minded, Darwin married twice, had 12 legitimate children as well as two illegitimate daughters, and was the grandfather of world-renowned naturalist Charles Darwin who shared his belief in evolution and published On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Page 55. " I just finished your translation of the poems of Nicanor Parra "
Chilean poet Nicanor Parra
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChilean poet Nicanor Parra - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nicanor Parra is a Latin American poet and mathematician who was born in 1914, near the city of Chillán in southern Chile. His first collection of poems, Poemas y Antipoemas, was published in 1954 and is considered one of the most influential Spanish poetry works of the twentieth century. Despite this success, Parra describes himself as an "antipoet", preferring to use a more colloquial tone and expressing his distaste for the more refined style of other Latin American literature.




Page 65. " I met Zvi in Valparaíso "

Valparaíso is a city in Chile and is one of the country's most important seaports.

Page 67. " Shema yisrael adonai elohanu adonai echad "

This is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book and many Jews recite it twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening. When recited in the synagogue, Orthodox Jews pronounce each word carefully and cover their eyes with their right hand. The English translation of this prayer is: Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.