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The King David Report (European Classics) Paperback – January 7, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


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

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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Product Details

  • Series: European Classics
  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (January 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810115379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810115378
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on May 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is another masterpiece from Stefan Heym, the pseudonym for Helmut Flieg. The author is an East German/American Jewish writer, known for his controversial political standing, and as an advocate of "real socialism" he has been a victim of totalitarism and western democracy alike. In "The King David Report," Hyem has retold the old biblical/legendary/historical story of King David. The main character, who personifies the author, is Ethan of Ezra, a wise, truthful man who has been entrusted by King Solomon to write the official version of King David's life and deeds. Ethan is the intellectual who must face the conflicts of time and who is tormented by the limitations which are set to his writing the truth, who soon realizes that learned men are an annoyance to the people and a bother to the servants of the King. To what extent should he expose the truth of King David's life, who setting aside his political glory can also be accused of being a murderer, adulterer, and a machiavellic leader? How does history deal with a King whose only purpose was power, who only loved himself, whose God was made exclusive to himself and justified his crimes in the name of the Holy One? Ethan soon realizes that the outlaw will cover his tracks rather than leave behind accounts of his exploits, and a high price is to be paid by those who are willing to bring forth the truth.
How are we to deal with historical undesirable matter? Tell it all, tell it with discretion, or don't tell it. Heym's intention is to extrapolate the story of King David to events taken place in our recent history, something that comes out quite easily for the reader.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on July 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
An eminent scholar is asked by King Salomon to write a true - nothing but the truth - biography of his father King David.
The scholar's research reveals a not so quite divine portrait of the late king. It is heavily stained by incest, sodomy, treachery, lechery, manslaughter, bloodbaths and opportunism. In one word, it exposes a satanic character.
King David followed the advice of his counsellor: 'In order to reign you should have but one goal: power, and love only one person: yourself.'
The scholar discovers also some very compromising facts about the present king.

He recognizes all too well that he lives in a split world: 'I do not say what I know; I say what I don't think; I think what I don't say; I want to say what I should not think. I am a dog turning around and around trying to catch a flea on my tail.' 'Truth is the daughter of ill fate.'

His report becomes a tohuwabohu: a rewrite of a rewrite ... until he looses his job.
The king's command of a true biography turns into an order for censure. There should be a yawning abyss between reality and what his subjects should believe: 'Do as I say, not as I do.'

This novel was (and is) an extremely intelligent attack on the 'newspeak' of one party-communist regimes, which wield(ed) complete control of the communications sector.
But the problems it tackled are even more actual and widespread today. Our world is dominated by big media monopolies, which are controlled by the powerful, who in turn control the government. These powerful people are not interested in the truth, only in 'their' truth.
Sabotage or direct liquidation of free objective journalism is rampant all over our planet.

This novel is an extremely clever and magisterial exposure of the all important 'the media and the powerful'-issue.
A must read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stuart W. Mirsky on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Being the account of the life and times of the Biblical King David, this historical novel, masquerading as an official report from King Solomon's designated historical interpreters, shines a brilliant light on the Biblical David as well as on the process by which fact becomes "historical truth". Imagining the court of King Solomon, a somewhat small-minded, self-seeking, albeit reasonably clever, Near Eastern potentate, Stefan Heym here conjures for us a picture of a reluctant scholar sucked into the maelstrom of politics and revisionism by which governing bureaucracies have historically secured their rule. Called to Jerusalem by King Solomon to help glorify the memory of his father, David, and establish the regime's bona fides, Ethan of Ezra, an actual Biblical personage credited with writing one of the psalms, must seek out the varying threads of King David's life from those who have survived him and meld these with the official records and documents of Solomon's court, all with an eye toward creating a legendary king who will give legitimacy to the rule of the petty tyrant, Solomon. Ethan does this at continued risk to his own life and to what is his, driven by an insatiable desire to ferret out and preserve some semblance of truth. All the while, he must find ways to compromise and get away from the court intrigues in one piece. The King David he discovers is not a particularly lovely specimen of humanity and it is Ethan's challenge to preserve a glimpse of this true David, through the smoke and mirrors of the official history he must write. Satiric and ironic by turns, the tale has one real flaw: its characters, though sharply realized, remain aloof from us, people we see but do not greatly care about.Read more ›
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