THE QUEEN AGAINST DEFOE: and Other Stories by Stefan Heym


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Until only recently, this outspoken socialist writer was a nonperson in his native East Germany. In the interview that prefaces this collection, Heym explains that although censorship is a sign of weakness in a society, restrictions seem to contribute to a ""really alive, significant"" literature. This artist uses them as a goad -- the novella of the title is concerned with the official prosecution in 1702 of the English novelist for his anonymous satirical pamphlet entitled The Shortest Way with the Dissenters. Suppression leads to a public demonstration in sympathy with the pilloried author, and a renewed public interest in his work. ""DeFoe"" purports to be the diary of one Josiah Creech, a flunky of the Earl of Nottingham who is his persecutor, and is a witty, amusing parody of the style and idiom of that period. It is far and away the showpiece of this book. ""A Very Good Second Man"" and ""Across the Fence"" -- two short stories dealing with the problem of the relative responsibilities of individual and society -- seem like mere notebook exercises criticizing the power structure of socialist bureaucracy -- a little too tight, a little too formalistic, lacking the feeling of spontaneous overflow that runs high in ""DeFoe."" ""The Wachsmuth Syndrome,"" a childish castration fantasy in which, one by one, all the men in the world wake up without their you-know-whats, misses the mark entirely; but then, it wasn't even trying very hard. Heym is a pugnacious writer who clearly relishes his enfant terrible eminence. Freedom would no doubt bore him to death.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1974
Publisher: Lawrence Hill