Duel

Duel

by David Grossman
     
 

David is a twelve-year-old boy living in Jerusalem in 1966. His best friend just happens to be seventy-year-old Heinrich Rosenthal, who lives at the Beit Hakerem Home for the Aged. Their friendship takes an unexpected turn when Mr. Rosenthal receives a threatening letter from the man he once knew as "the bully of Heidelberg University." The letter accuses Mr.

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Overview

David is a twelve-year-old boy living in Jerusalem in 1966. His best friend just happens to be seventy-year-old Heinrich Rosenthal, who lives at the Beit Hakerem Home for the Aged. Their friendship takes an unexpected turn when Mr. Rosenthal receives a threatening letter from the man he once knew as "the bully of Heidelberg University." The letter accuses Mr. Rosenthal of stealing a priceless painting and challenges him to a duel if it is not returned immediately. But Mr. Rosenthal didn't steal the painting. Who did? Determined to find some answers and prevent the duel, David plays detective and ultimately uncovers the story of two beautiful paintings, one of a woman's eyes and the other of her mouth, given by the artist to the two men who are now willing to kill one another over them. With some brilliant sleuthing and a bit of luck, David manages to pull together the strings of a story that began more than thirty years before, preventing a tragedy by bringing a long-dead memory to back to life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Entirely convincing . . . full of tension.” —Philip Pullman

“A writer of passionate self-honesty, unafraid to ask terrible questions.” —Nadine Gordimer

Children's Literature
Although Israeli author David Grossman's novelette is billed as a mystery, it is really more of a fictional coming-of-age memoir. Grossman's twelve-year-old hero, also named David, narrates most of the story from his vantage point under the bed of seventy-year-old Heinrich Rosenthal in Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem Home for the Aged in 1966. While his vantage point is foreshortened (he can see only Mr. Rosenthal's worn sneakers, and later, the size fifteens of Mr. Rosenthal's arch enemy, Mr. Schwartz), David's mind ranges far and wide as the modest plot develops. His unsatisfactory home life and bookishness are quickly sketched in, as is his penchant for the friendship of older generations in lieu of his own. It immediately becomes obvious that David is a thinker rather than a man of action in the making. As a potential duel is set in motion over a former lover of both senior citizens, David is forced to leave the security of beds and wardrobes. He is forced to act. Grossman's tale and approach are both curious, but strangely satisfying, and before the book ends, he manages to give brief nods to pre-war Germany, World War II, and the birth of Israel under the British Protectorate. This is a read for thoughtful middle graders, young adults, and adults as well. 2004 (orig. 1998), Bloomsbury, Ages 10 to adult.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-A brief novel that takes place over a two-day period in Jerusalem in 1966. Twelve-year-old David's best friend is 70-year-old Heinrich Rosenthal, who is accused of stealing a valuable charcoal drawing from Rudy Schwartz, known years ago as the Bully of Heidelberg University. Rudy challenges Heinrich to an old-fashioned duel of honor with pistols. Mr. Rosenthal, although innocent, feels he must honor the code of his youth, even if it means his death. David has until the following afternoon to prevent a tragedy and straighten out the awful predicament that involves three countries, several love affairs, a stolen picture worth millions, and two World War I pistols. To do this, he must use his best sleuthing skills to find out the real thief. Along the way, he learns much about his friend as well as about anti-Semitism and Jerusalem in the 1930s when the potential duelers were in college. David uncovers the story of two paintings, one of a woman's eyes and the other of her mouth, given by the beautiful artist to these two men, who were both in love with her. David, sensitive and imaginative, recounts the story with wit and humor 16 years later. This mystery reads like a tall tale, with larger-than-life characters and dire circumstances. The translation is natural and seamless. The memorable characters and quirky situation make this a great read-aloud.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A 12-year-old helps a septuagenarian friend weather a potentially deadly misunderstanding in this brief, reflective import, winner of a British prize for translated works. His mother may disapprove, but David enjoys being around old people-particularly a spry, sharp photographer named Heinrich. That pleasure turns to horror, however, when a furious rival from a decades-old love affair accuses Heinrich of theft, and, of all things, challenges him to a duel. For complex reasons, Heinrich accepts, leaving David to search frantically for a way to head off the impending tragedy. Even though he casts David as an adult looking back on the incident, Grossman cranks up the suspense with frequent cuts back and forth in time, plus side meditations on growing up, and growing old; in the end, David does find a way to head off the stiff-necked duelists, and the episode even kindles new friendships. Set in Jerusalem in the mid-1960s, this doesn't have the broad-or, for that matter, child-appeal of Daniella Carmi's Samir and Yonatan (2000), but it's refreshing to have a tale in which the city's people loom larger than its issues. (Fiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582349305
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/07/2004
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

David Grossman has received several international awards for his writing, including the Premio Grinzane and the Premio Mondelo for The Zigzag Kid. He is the author of seven novels, several children's books, and a play. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children.

In 2000, Besty Rosenberg received the Marsh Award for Children's Literature in Translation for translating Duel from the original Hebrew into English. In their review, the award committee said, "Duel is quirky, compassionate and beautifully edited . . . Grossman deals with values that are not often discussed today. In a lively natural translation, this original book is unforgettable."

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