When Shabtai Zvi of Smyrna, a 17th Century man of piety, if eccentric and unruly, proclaims himself Messiah, euphoria and devotion ripple through Jewish communities worldwide. Imprisoned for sedition by the Ottomans, Shabtai converts to Islam to escape the death penalty, but his story doesn’t end there, as true believers follow their messiah into conversion, creating a unique hybrid religion that survived in secret for centuries, and inspiring Jacob Frank to claim, a century later, to be Shabtai’s reincarnation (the subject of Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 winner, The Books of Jacob
). A work of fiction that melds poetry, prose and play, Unbridled Messiah
is constructed from eyewitness accounts (real and imaginary), letters and historical sources, delivering an extraordinary and spell-binding narrative enlivened by Shinebourne’s chorus of Heavenly Sisters, who play with the ‘facts’, adding irreverent and mischievous interpretations. Long-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2020, Unbridled Messiah
, is an ambitious, intelligent and inventive exploration of the multiple ways we approach and find salvation.