notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘The Assault’

Mulisch’s Magnum Opus

In Masters on October 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Discovery of Heaven


Harry Mulisch (1927-2010), the Dutch novelist who wrote fiction, prose, commentary, plays and poetry, was also widely solicited for his views on politics. He was considered one of the “Great Three” of postwar literature next to Willem Frederik Hermans and Gerard Reve. He had a gift for writing with clarity about moral and philosophical themes made him an enormously influential figure in the Netherlands and earned him recognition abroad

The New York Times looked back on his life after his death in 2010, mentioning that in several interviews Mulisch said that the Dutch, a nation of avid readers and talented writers, needed a Dutch author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature to draw attention to the country’s literary activity. It became a public secret that Mulisch thought the winner should be he.

Mulisch was the child of a Jewish mother and a Nazi collaborator father whose pro-German efforts during the Second World War almost certainly saved his young son’s life.  Probably due to this fateful if unusual personal history, the patina of the Holocaust and the question of who was truly guilty in the war continually find their way to the center of his work.

Many of Mulisch’s novels were translated in multiple languages (his first novel to be translated into English was The Stone Bridal Bed in 1962). The AssaultMulisch’s most well-known work, was translated into 32 languages, and made into a successful Dutch film, which in 1987 won the Oscar for best foreign film.

His most ambitious novel is The Discovery of Heaven which is widely translated and considered as his masterpiece. Mulisch called this is Magnum Opus, 700 pages long. The Discovery of Heaven is about an intense intellectual friendship spiced with a love triangle, framed by debates between angels in heaven. It offers a sweeping discourse on history and art, science and religion, man and God, good and evil. It became a best seller and was voted “the best Dutch-language book ever” by Dutch readers in a 2007 newspaper poll. In 2001  The Discovery of Heaven was made into a movie by Dutch actor and director Jeroen Krabbe, starring Stephen Fry and Flora Montgomery.

Other books by Harry Mulisch:

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