I'm trying out something a little bit different on my blog today. Author Uvi Poznansky has joined me for an interview about her Biblical era David Chronicles. Welcome, Uvi!
Tell us about The David Chronicles?
My books are about the story of David in a way you have never heard it before: from the king himself, telling the unofficial version, the one he never allowed his court scribes to recount. In his mind, history is written to praise the victorious—but at the last stretch of his illustrious life, he feels an irresistible urge to tell the truth.
The series includes three novels about the youth, prime of life, and old age of the king. Rise to Power is an account of David’s early years, leading up to his first coronation. How does he see himself, during this first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives? This is followed by A Peek at Bathsheba, the most torrid tale of passion ever told: David's forbidden love for Bathsheba, and his attempt to cover up the scandal. Finally, The Edge of Revolt tells the story of a father’s love for the son who betrays him. The last thing he expects is that he will topple him from the throne. Who among them will remain by his side? Who will be not only loyal, but also eager to continue his legacy?
In addition, the series includes six collections of art by the masters around the story of David.
What inspired you to write about David?
I am fascinated by the complexity of this character. At many points along the way he finds himself at a crossroad, torn between his political ambitions and the divine call of his inspired work, as a poet and musician.
At the same time, I found myself intrigued by the role of history in this story. David sees the struggle between himself and the king he succeeded as a struggle between two contending versions of history. An excerpt demonstrates this struggle:
What is at stake here is the virtue of the office, the sanctity of the crown, which I tried to preserve most of the time—but certainly not always… My appetite for sin would get out of control, and threaten to undermine my best efforts to establish myself, establish my glory for all to cherish. Even so, future generations must revere my name.
Hell, I made sure of that.
At the time I gave orders to imprison quite a few of my court historians, for no better reason than a misspelling, or a chance error in judgement, for which they tried to apologize profusely. Of course, to no avail. They never saw the light of day again. I knew I was right, because who are they to strive for something as misleading as reporting the bare facts?
Both Saul and I were anointed to rule the nation, which without fail caused a civil war. We fought over something larger than the crown. Ours was a battle between two contending versions of history. The outcome would decide who would be called a hero and who—a villain.
And having won that struggle, I was not about to allow the scribes in my court to report any faults in me, any wrongdoings. My record would be clean. There was, I decided, no truth other than mine.
How has art inspired your work?
The story of David has inspired artists throughout the history of art, and my writing has a lot of highly visual references to many of these art pieces. Here, for example, is a reference to Michelangelo’s David:
“I catch sight of the reflection, my reflection in his eyes. In a flash I know Saul sees me as a danger to him. He fears me, he prays for my demise, and at the same time he adores me, too. In me he hopes to capture the fading image of that which is lost to him. His youth.
I ask myself, what makes him so jealous of me? What is he thinking?
Perhaps this: there is David, a young boy with a glint in his eyes. Morning breeze plays with his curls. It breathes words of hope and promise in his ear.
Yet unscarred by battle, his skin is smooth. His muscles are flexible, his hands strong. They are large, larger than you would expect for such a slender body. They are the hands of a killer.
There is David. Narrowing his eyes to focus them at the enemy, the boy is searching for a way to change, to become that which is not: larger than life. There he stands, ready for the kill.
I smile at Saul. He is slow to smile back.”
And here, a reference to Bernini’s David:
I must have lost my mind, because I leap over the brook and run quickly towards him. And I put my hand in my bag and take out one of my pebbles and sling it.
It is now that time starts slowing down. With sharp, heightened senses I feel the morning breeze playing with my curls, brushing them this way and that, down to the nape of my neck. Here I am, twisting over my legs, wringing my body in a tortuous effort to gather momentum, to let a pebble fly. This, I tell myself, is no dream. This is for real. I am aiming to slay a giant.
If I live, someone should sculpt me in this pose, just so.
I am often inspired by the art when writing a specific scene. For example, the execution of Amnon, as orchestrated by his brother, Absalom, is imagined here by his father, David:
This was no murder. There is no other name for it but execution.
I stare at the darkness of the palms of my hands and at once, images of that feast—for lack of a better term—light up in my mind. I hear every sound in that place, and take in every smell, as if I have witnessed the entire affair myself, as if I own the senses of the killer and of the victim at once, as if I am possessed by them, because they are, both of them, my own flesh and blood.
I shudder to see so many daggers drawn out of metal holsters. Their harsh grating noise penetrates me. A gasp, a last gurgle of surprise escapes from Amnon’s throat, as many hands grip him, and twist his arms forcefully behind his back.
The bleating of sheep is heard faintly in the background as blades rise, flashing in the air. Then they plunge upon his throat, clinking against each other, and the first of them slashes the vein.
His bloodied corpse is thrown, like leftover meat, by the side of the bench where he has sat. Overhead, birds of prey start hovering. Flies are buzzing, buzzing all around, sensing the sweet taste of blood, which is spurting from his neck.
His eyes turn. They go on turning in their sockets, nearly flipping over in an unnatural way, as if to see the man standing directly behind him. Absalom. There, there he is, striking a victorious pose: legs wide apart, arms crossed, giving him what he has wanted: a nod, a final nod of recognition.
Oh, my son, Absalom.
How much of your writing would be considered history versus fiction? How heavily did you rely upon Biblical accounts?
Studying the biblical story in the original language, rather than in translation, made the story very direct for me. In Hebrew there are no ‘versions’ of the bible--there is the one and only text where every sentence, every word is the same across all illuminated manuscripts and printed books. Translations are interpretations, but growing up in Israel, what I studied is the original.
Connect with Uvi
Read The David Chronicles
The complete series:
Volume I: Rise to Power
Volume II: A Peek at Bathsheba
Volume III: The Edge of Revolt