Wednesday, February 20, 2008

King David Out of Context

Someday someone should write a biography of Stefan Heym - or perhaps, better still, a novel based on his life, since no-one would believe it to be true. You can see its outline here, and ponder on the many zigs and zags until the final irony of dying in Israel at a Heine conference. And note, as you go, that he wrote novels in English when he lived in Germany, but in German when he was forced to publish them elsewhere.

Anyway, you've got this German-born American who was thrown out of the American army for his pro-communist leanings who went back to Germany in order to live in the Communist paradise, who in the 1970s is writing novels tearing apart the Communist regime of East Germany, and he's writing them in English from which they're getting translated into German. In one of the most famous - The King David Report - he mocked the Communists by telling a satirical version of King David's life and court: no communist censor could object to that, now could they? Former East Germans have told me this was one of his most effective satires, precisely because everyone who read it knew precisely who he was talking about, and it wasn't King David.

The book has now been translated to Hebrew. According to the advertisements I've seen, the Israeli publisher thinks it really is a satire of King David. After all, most Israelis are familiar with that story, but who around here remembers Hoennecker?