Arnold Zable

Arnold Zable is a dynamic and highly acclaimed storyteller. His books include the award winning Jewels and Ashes (1992), The Fig Tree (2002) and the novels Café Scheherazade (2001) and Scraps of Heaven (2004). He is president of the International PEN, Melbourne.

Zable was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1947, and grew up in the inner Melbourne suburb of Carlton. He attended Melbourne University and Columbia University. He has travelled and lived in the USA, India, Papua New Guinea, Europe, Southeast Asia and China.

Zable speaks with passion about memory and history, displacement and community, the experience of the Jewish diaspora, aboriginal issues and indigenous education, and the multiplicity of cultures within Australia. He has run workshops for migrants and refugees, and has recently spent considerable time with refugees held in Australian detention centres. Arnold Zable lives in Melbourne with his wife and son.




‘Arnold Zable is a storyteller, one of the best I’ve heard. He tells his stories, which could be described as Yiddish Australian folk tales, with humour and quiet dignity…This is truly a man who believes in the power of stories.’
Martin Flanagan

‘The ability to see the beauty in the ordinary in a world obsessed with the extraordinary informs every aspect of Zable’s writing.’

Books by Arnold Zable

Jewels and Ashes (Scribe, 1991)

‘Do you ever think about those you left behind?’, I ask father. ‘Not often’, he says. ‘Such memories are a luxury I can’t afford.’

Zable’s first book, Jewels and Ashes, is a moving account of his own family’s history and experiences in both Europe and Australia. Jewels and Ashes won five Australian literary awards: the 1991 National Council Lysbeth Cohen Award; the 1991 NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission Award; the 1992 FAW ANA Literature Award; the 1992 Braille Book of the Year Award; and the 1992 Talking Book of the Year award.

‘A remarkable book…(which) has taken the creative leap into literature.’

‘An original, deeply felt, beautifully written book.’
Sydney Morning Herald

Café Scheherazade (Text Publishing, 2001)

Arnold’s first work of fiction, was published in February 2001, to tremendous critical acclaim. Café Scheherazade is a compelling meditation on memory and place. The novel traces the stories of the survivors of war in eastern Europe, following their journeys from their homeland to refuges around the globe. Through intertwining narratives Zable reveals much that cannot be destroyed by war and hardship—the integrity of the self and the ability to maintain a rich culture in the face of profound dislocation. Café Scheherazade was shortlisted for the 2001 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, and was winner of the 2002 National Association for Loss and Grief Award and winner of the People’s Choice Award, Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize 2003.

‘Transcends the distinction between fiction and non-fiction.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘A beautiful book, wonderfully written.’
Australian Jewish News

‘A celebration of the immigrants’ resilience and creativity. In Zable’s eloquent style, storytelling is heightened by pathos, tragedy and lyricism.’

The Fig Tree (Text Publishing, 2002)

Zable’s non-fiction collection entitled The Fig Tree, was released in May 2002. The Fig Tree is tender book of haunting true stories filled with memorable people, from families in both Australia and Europe. Zable tells of the lives of Jewish and Greek migrants to this country, about refugees and wanderers, about actors, singers and poets. These are stories about displaced people coming to a new home, and have a tremendous relevance to our current refugee situation. Zable’s tales of individual experience are universal stories about life and love, trust and doubt, and about the bonds within each family. The Fig Tree is a book about journeys to and from ‘home’, about belonging and feeling out of place. The Fig Tree CD, produced in 2003 as a companion to the book, won the 2004 National Folk Recording Award.

‘Zable elevates history into near near-mythical tales of wonder.’

‘The master storyteller has done it again.’

‘As shapely as fiction and as stirring as fact.’

‘Halfway through I realised this book was something special; by the end I thought it was something extraordinary, a blending of old and new, Odysseus’s epic of exile and return revived in telling the stories of multicultural society.’
Sydney Morning Herald

Herald Sun

Scraps of Heaven (Text Publishing, 2004)

Zable’s second work of fiction, Scraps of Heaven, was released in October 2004. It explores the lives of inhabitants of an inner city suburb in post-war Melbourne, revealing the horrors that haunt these lives, and simultaneously the celebration of a new start in a new country. Full of wry humour, pithy social observation and deft characterisation, Scraps of Heaven is the work of a master storyteller.

‘Evocative, charismatic and moving.’
Weekend Australian

‘Zable’s vision is ultimately optimistic and affirming.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘Such a rewarding read.’
Canberra Times

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