June 12, 2003

The King David Report

A festival of changed meanings, this fine and intriguing story is the tale of the creation of The One and One Try, Authoritative, Historically Correct and Officially Approved Report on the Amazing Rise, etc., know to us as I Samuel 6 through I Kings 2. The original, Heym observes, is the tale of a remarkable revolutionary, adapted to the needs of a conservative dynast. This retelling, in turn, was composed by a Nazi-era exile who turned against the American lifestyle and returned to the East, a German intellectual who wrote in English. And, of course, the novel meant something different in 1972 Berlin than it does after a reunification that carried Heym to the German parliament.

It makes an interesting pair with God Knows, of course. Heym is less funny, less interested in the humanity of David, and (I suspect) less interested in Jewishness. He's a lot more interested, on the other hand, in the issues David faced, and in the nature of history and historical evidence. He adores textual and political seams and chasms. This bears all the signs of a book that ran away with the author, but it's a fun ride.