Dan Jacobson retells the age-old, biblical story of the rape of King David's daughter by her brother Amnon. Out of this material he creates a tragic and sardonically humorous novel, wholly modern in spirit and yet true to the time in which it is set. On first publication, The Rape of Tamar was hailed as a masterpiece. "REVIEW: 'Almost a prose poem. There is an uncanny ripeness about the scene, characterisations and tempo' (Sunday Times) "REVIEW: 'Stunningly deft and economical...a novel of quite unusual depth and originality' (Observer) "REVIEW: 'An almost flawlessly written legend of malign intelligence. The Rape of Tamar is a breathtaking performance' (Newsweek) AUTHBIO: Dan Jacobson was born in South Africa in 1929. After working in business and as a journalist in Johannesburg, he settled in Britain in 1955. He has taught at several universities in the United States and has recently retired from a professorship at University College London. He is the author of novels, short stories, as well as essays and autobiographical and critical works, which have been widely acclaimed and have been awarded several leading literary prizes.
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Yes, I admit that the whole affair dies have the look of a charade or costume-drama of some kind. Even to me. Is it simply because so many years have passed since the events took place, and fashions and habits have changed so greatly during that time? Or because the people involved in the story were themselves constantly aware of an audience looking to them for instruction and entertainment?
Probably both things apply. In any case, itís always difficult to take the dead quite seriously. What a dwarfish, slavish, disadvantaged race of spooks and less that spooks they are! If you choose not to think of them, they have no existence at all. If you do recall any one among them it is only to condemn him to go through a sequence of actions, that being dead, he can now never revise or modify. You may well wonder which is worse: to be forgotten, and hence utterly bereft of existence; or to be remembered solely in order to be driven again and yet again through one implacably unvarying routine, leading always to the same conclusion. If, per impossibile, the dead could choose, each would doubtless choose the state other to the one he is in: the remembered would choose to be forgotten, the forgotten to be remembered.
As for myself, I know only too well why I am remembered. I know the role I am condemned to play. I shall carry it out as conscientiously as I always do. Just watch. So much be way of preamble. Now (and you may, if you wish, imagine me to be suitably dressed for my part, with my flesh and features arranged in a conventionally lifelike manner) allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yonadab.
Not a common name nowadays; at least in this part of the world. But some of you, a few of you, will have heard of me. I come from a distinguished family.
You see, I canít pretend to be one of your anonymous narrators, one of your men in the street, one of your nondescript sons of the people. I am (or I was) the nephew of a king, the cousin of another, the uncle of a third. Ambitious men, all of them, hungry for power and position, eager for applause, determined to be remembered by generation following their own. And successful, too, at getting what they wanted. The name Yonadab may mean nothing to you; but you all know of David, Solomon, Absalom, and many others among my kinsmen.
However, please donít let these names overawe you. Iím sure that even the most plebeian among you will have little difficulty in recognising the conflicts and motives Iíll have to speak of in the course of this narrative. In fact, if I sometimes feel embarrassed at the thought of how remote and archaic much of my story may appear to be, I am equally embarrassed at other times by how commonplace, how drearily familiar, you will find it all. Fraternal rivalries, incestuous desire, the struggles between a father and his sons, the greed for possessions and power. The recollected dead are not the only ones who have to suffer the unending nausea of repetition.
But I anticipate. I had begun to introduce myself, and mist get back to that task. As I was saying, I am (or was) Yonadab: son of Shimeah, third son of Jesse, who was son of Obed, who was son of Boaz, who was son of Salma, who was son of Nachson, Ďprince of the tribe of JudahíÖ
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