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The King David Report (European Classics) [Paperback]

Stefan Heym
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £15.50
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Book Description

15 Nov 2002 European Classics
In this retelling of the biblical story, King Solomon commissions Ethan the Scribe to write the official history of King David. In return for the finest cooking in the land and the wages of a minor prophet, Ethan must write a proper record, full of glory and battles, statecraft and honor--a tribute to David and, of course, to Solomon, his heir. But as Ethan explores the story, he finds another life hidden behind the iron curtain dividing past from present: the story of a David who seduced, lied, bragged, and plundered his way to power. Ethan wonders: which life should be reported in the King David Report? Written by one of Germany's most acclaimed dissident authors, "The King David Report" is both an analysis of the writer's obligations to truth, and an astute satire on the workings of history and politics in a totalitarian state.

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The King David Report (European Classics) + The Wandering Jew (European Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; Northwestern University Press Pbk. Ed edition (15 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810115379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810115378
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 777,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Fantastic, witty, and impudent." --Heinrich Boll

About the Author

Stefan Heym is representative of many intellectuals in the former East Germany who found themselves torn between loyalty to the ideals of their state and disdain for the reality. He was born into a secular Jewish family in Chemnitz. As a young man, he went to the United States to escape Hitler, where he worked for a while as a journalist. In 1943 he joined the American army. His first novel, "The Crusaders" (1948), became a best-seller. It was loosely based on his wartime experiences and filled with contempt not only for the Nazi government, but for virtually all of German culture. Distressed by the rise of McCarthyism in the United States and by Western tolerance of former Nazi officials, Heym emigrated to East Germany in 1953 and gave his enthusiastic support to the Socialist aspirations of his new homeland. His disillusionment with East Germany was far more gradual and, by his own account, more difficult than that experienced in the United States. In 1976 Heym protested the forced emigration of singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann from the German Democratic Republic. Two years later he was fined and expelled from the East German Writers' Union for accepting royalties for work published abroad. Though Heym continued to believe that the GDR was the "better-half" of Germany, disillusion with the reality of socialism moved him to turn to his Jewish heritage for inspiration in novels such as "The King David Report" (1972) and" The Wandering Jew" (1984). In 1992 he became a founding member of the "Committee for Justice," a lobby representing the interests of former East Germans in a newly united Germany.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Introduction to Old Testament Study! 15 Aug 2013
An odd title for my review I admit, but let me explain. I was first given a copy of what looked like a rather tawdry pot-boiler by a certain Rowan Williams (later to become Archbishop of Canterbury). I was bemused. Why did an intellectual and scholar of his standing want me to read this?

Finally I did read it. Not only was it beautifully written (the English echoing the cadences of the Authorised Version,as the German does the style of Luther's translation of the New Testament),but it was utterly convincing not only about Israel 3000 years ago but about Europe behind the Iron Curtain. Disguised to bewilder the dotards of tyranny as a novel about a tenth century BC king it was in reality a superb underhand dig at the distortion of reality that totalitarian regimes are prone to.

I ended up as a director of studies in Old Testament at Cambridge University. I put this book at the top of the reading list for first year undergraduates. Why? Because it also happens to be the best introduction to modern critical analysis of the Old Testament that I know of. Heym provides a most convincing account of how the biblical historical narratives were likely composed as propaganda for the authorities: after all King David was a pretty sordid sort of King, and Solomon was not much better. He also suggests how paid scribes could fulfil their task and yet sqeeze hints of the truth into commissioned texts, hints that the authorities would be too obtuse to pick up but contemporary readers might discern or modern scholars might detect and decipher.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Of all the modern retellings of the story of David, including Heller's _God Knows_ and Shamir's _The Hittite Must Die_, this is by far the best informed, most sophisticated and the most remarkable achievement for a writer. Another on-line reviewer praises the book for revivifying "a dry piece of OT prose." There is nothing dry or prosaic about David's story in 2 Samuel 9-1 Kings 2. On the contrary. It is in a league of its own. Yet Heym has somehow given himself a superlative background in biblical studies and the ancient Near East, and somehow acquired a command of English which native English speakers should envy. As a result, Heym manages to produce a piece of engrossing fiction which at the same time contains a wealth of insight into both ancient and modern political realities. As a modern biblical novel, it far outstrips even Thomas Mann's writings on Joseph and Moses. The highest praise I can give is to put it on a par with Hurston's magnificent _Moses: Man of the Mountain_.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History, as written by the winners. 24 Nov 1997
By A Customer
Like other recent eastern european authors like Bulgakov and Dombrovsky, Stefan Heym writes a novel based on Biblical events to tell a tale of life in a totalitarian state. Ethan of Ezra, allegedly the wisest man in Israel is commisioned to write the true story of the life of King David. Unfortunately his patron is none other than Solomon, who is anxious for a certain interpretation of his father's life. This is a marvellous book, turning a dry piece of Old Testament prose into the stuff of political feuds and drama that looses nothing in a couple of thousand years of waiting.
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