Sitting down I lay my head upon the desk. By the touch I know: here is my daughter’s face, which my child, Amnon, carved into the wooden surface years ago, when she was a newborn baby. Perhaps this scar is all that remains of a happier time. Perhaps this is all there is.
One thing is obvious: what happened today behind closed doors between Amnon and Tamar should be blotted out.
I must instruct my court historians to avoid investigating it, let alone writing it. This story should remain out of their records. But why, then, do I feel compelled to sharpen my quill? I have no answer, except this: if I write everything down, and then read it back to myself, perhaps I will find a way to make sense of it all.
Confusion makes me uneasy. Then again, in this case it may be less painful than clarity. Perhaps it is better to knock the inkwell upside down, and let the ink bleed across my characters, obscuring them completely.
Of its own, the tip of my feather hovers over the blank sheet, and it starts its journey on the slant of the first letter, writing:
So Tamar went to the house of her half-brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the dumplings in his sight and cooked them.
I imagine she could feel the obsession, the weight of his gaze at her back, as he was following every single one of her movements. As tension grew between them, she must have spotted the glint, the flareup of lust, escaping from the corner of his eye every now and again.
Still Tamar resisted the urge to leave, because she respected my command, and made up her mind to be brave, even to her own detriment, and obey it. Besides, she figured that Amnon was of no danger, because he was sick. And as long as there were servants around her Amnon would have to restrain himself.
At least for now, she was safe.
Then she took the pan and set it before him, but he refused to eat.
“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said.
Faithfully did Jonadab do his bidding.. “Out, all of you!” he shouted, avoiding to look at Tamar, who turned pale.
And so, everyone but her left the chamber.
I imagine that she asked herself if she should leave, too, but held herself firm. Still, she respected my command.
Amnon and Tamar
Amnon and Thamar
Niccolò Renieri (Nicolas Regnier) (1591–1667)
Curing an invalid: study for ´Amnon feigning illness in order to rape Tamar´
Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)
Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)
The rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon is a seminal event in the life of their father, David, as it starts off a chain of calamities that tests his control of the family and later, the nation. In my upcoming book, The Edge of Revolt, he will discover how it happened and tell it in his voice.
The rape inspired many artists to depict it, before, during, and after the deed. The first painting here is by Ian Steen. It shaw Amnon lying lazily upon his bed, his shirt dropping off his shoulder, feigning sickness so his sister would come to cook for him and feed him, which is when he can get close enough to rape her. His servant already holds Tamar in a disrespectful way, while she is shown pleading with him.
The second painting is by Niccolò Renier, and he chose to explore the aftermath of the rape. While Tamar is weeping into her handkerchief, lamenting the loss of her innocence, Amnon is in rapture, concentrating on the satisfaction he got through his brutality. He looks away from her and even shoves her away.
The Third is a study by Maerten van Heemskerck, who chose to depict the hustle bustle in Amnon's house while Tamar is still in the process of cooking for her seemingly sick brother. The place is full of color, with the exception of Amnon who is shown to be purposely white, and lying still on his bed, hiding behind all the commotion. By his side are attendants, servants, and even a doctor who stands by the window, lifting a glass container to the light, examine the sick person's urine.
yet delivers piercing truth and insights into the human psyche on the way.
A wonderful read."