Friday, April 6, 2007

Barthelme - The King

The King. Donald Barthelme. Penguin Books. 1990. Illustrated by Barry Moser. In the thick of World War Two. Winston Churchill is Prime Minister. King Arthur and Guinevere head the Royal Family. Arthur considers seeking the Grail to counter the threat of an atomic bomb. Ezra Pound broadcasts propaganda from Italy. Arthur and his knights join the fighting as Rommel's tanks menace Tobruk. Mordred is left in England as regent.

The world of Arthurian Romance and WWII history overlap and interact. Each mileu seems at times to operate independantly of the other, though occupying the same space; and at other times they mesh totally. This novel of magic realism is one of the best five fiction books ever written, and certainly the best thing Barthelme ever wrote.

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