Herengracht at dawn
Photo of Amsterdam by Marcel Germain used under a Creative Commons license.

Harry Mulisch, The Assault (Pantheon, 1986).
A novel about World War II and its long aftermath in Holland.  In the winter of 1945, with liberation anticipated but not arrived, a collaborator, a policeman, is killed near the house of twelve-year-old Anton Steenwijk in Haarlem.  He leaves his hometown for Amsterdam but the consequences of the incident return to Anton again and again, as subsequent events cast new light on that night.  A short novel, with its own mysteries to be resolved, originally published in 1982, and told in five episodes.  The quality of the translation has been criticized — I wouldn’t know, but I enjoyed what I read.

Mulisch’s site is here. Here are pages about him at Wikipedia and The Complete Review. Mulisch turned 80 not long ago, and Josh Lacey (The Guardian) wished him a happy birthday. Ben Naparstek (The Age) also marked the day. The Complete Review calls it a strong, well-written novel about war, guilt and fate. Danny Yee says it’s an intense and powerful work, hard to put down. R.S. sees parallels to W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. The Bad Bohemian calls it a fine, thought-provoking read. Janice L. Willms sees a marvelous study of the caprices of memory. Nina Sankovitch says it’s a powerful novel. James says it’s one of the best novels he’s read. Nette Menke recommends it for insight into Dutch culture. Samantha recommends it as Netherlands reading. Nikki posts some favorite passages. According to elln, it is haunting and fascinating. And the World’s Smallest Book Group gave it four thumbs up. In an overview of modern Dutch literature, Margot Dijkgraaf calls it a perfectly structured, gripping narrative. Back in the day, Janet Maslin (The New York Times) reviewed the 1986 movie.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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