THE HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM by Zoe Oldenbourg

THE HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In The Crusades (1966), Miss Oldenbourg traveled in high places among kings, bishops and political movers of the 12th century; here she moves with the tragic base of the First Crusade -- the restless, uprooted poor -- and follows the progressive corruption of that hungry and potentially violent humanity led by divine visions. The marchers -- peasants, artisans, even prostitutes, minor clergy and children -- leave northern France and straggle through both fertile and blighted lands on their way to free Jerusalem where their sins would be washed away. But as part of the army which takes Nicea and Antioch and then Jerusalem, the poor are treated with wary contempt by soldiers and those in authority (""Poverty improves no one""). Within the broil of confusion, misery, dust and terrible deaths several lives are particularized, as vulnerable and powerless individuals cope in various ways with the mass ""madness"" of the crusade (""There is no salvation for mankind now except in madness""). Spirited, attractive and in a way the most innocent are the young couple, Marie and Jacques, but at the close Marie is sold into slavery by Bedouins and Jacques, ravaged by sorrow, determines on a soldier's revenge, the dream gone (""O Lord Jesus Christ, I have come near to cursing you""). As carnage mounts in horror and terror and the people are brutalized by following orders from God's spokesmen, the Golden City becomes like any other with its rich and eternal poor. The narrative is paced by a medieval obsession with death and deliverance and this nightmare journey into nowhere is a stirring and disturbing work.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon