The King

The King

by Donald Barthelme, Barry Moser
     
 

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In The King, a retelling of Le Morte D'Arthur, Donald Barthelme moves the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table to the cruelty of the Second World War. Dunkirk has fallen, Europe is at the breaking point, Ezra Pound and Lord Haw-Haw are poisoning the radio waves, Mordred has fled to Nazi Germany, and King Arthur and his worshipful Knights are deep in the fighting.

Overview

In The King, a retelling of Le Morte D'Arthur, Donald Barthelme moves the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table to the cruelty of the Second World War. Dunkirk has fallen, Europe is at the breaking point, Ezra Pound and Lord Haw-Haw are poisoning the radio waves, Mordred has fled to Nazi Germany, and King Arthur and his worshipful Knights are deep in the fighting. When the Holy Grail presents itself--which is, in this version, the atomic bomb, "a superweapon if you will, with which we can chastise and thwart the enemy"--they must decide whether to hew to their knightly ways or adopt a modern ruthlessness. Barthelme makes brilliant comic use of anachronism to show that war is center stage in the theater of human absurdity and cruelty. But Arthur, in deciding to decline the power of the Grail, announces his unwillingness to go along: "It's not the way we wage war. The essence of our calling is right behavior, and this false Grail is not a knightly weapon."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

a daring tour de force that combines legend, parody and literature' -Herbert Mitgang, New York Times

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Clever anachronisms and mock-Arthurian diction mark this madcap, absurdist 20th-century parable, in which Barthelme transposes King Arthur and his Round Table to 1940s England under Nazi bombardment. (May)
Library Journal
The King is Arthur himself, even though Barthelme's brief novel is set during World War II. As ``real'' battles rage far offstage, the Knights of the Round Table are busy ``rushing and riding, foining and striking.'' Meanwhile, Lord Haw-Haw keeps the populace abreast of Guinevere's infidelities in his broadcasts from Berlin. Sad to say, the late Barthelme doesn't do much with Arthur. The irony is tired, the whimsy facile, the language numbing in its archaic banality: ``Yonder knights hurtle together like rams to bear either other down!'' Faithful readers of Barthelme may appreciate The King ; others will wonder whether it would have seen publication without his name attached.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564784131
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
02/01/2006
Series:
American Literature Series
Pages:
158
Sales rank:
1,234,705
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Donald Barthelme was one of the most influential American novelists of the 1970s and 1980s, bringing a unique postmodern voice to his novels, short stories and essays. He died in 1989.

Barry Mosher, one of the foremost illustrators working today, has illustrated many books for adults and children, including The Pennyroyal Caxton edition of the King James Bible and Lewis Carroll's Alice: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

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