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.
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.