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The internationally-renowned author of "The Assault" delivers a rich mosaic of 20th-century trauma in which many themes--loyalty, friendship, family, art, fate, good and evil--suffuse a suspenseful and resplendent narrative.
When I told Dutch friends of mine that I was going to tackle the Dutch classic The Discovery of Heaven (De ontdekking van de hemel) by Harry Mulisch they were not supportive. ‘It was the worst book I read in high school,’ one told me. ‘You should make an appointment with your therapist, you’ll need it,’ said another. Published in 1992, IT was voted the Best Dutch Language Book Ever in 2007 by readers of the NRC newspaper. The film adaptation starred no-one less than Stephen Fry and was directed by Jeroen Krabbé, so the odds for a good read were high. It is, in all, a complicated, and messy family history, but strangely gripping. And if you skip over the angel bits, the book feels authentic in a way that other classics such as Turkish Delight or The Evenings or even The Dinner does not – in this foreigner’s limited experience at least.
Dialogue Mulisch is impressively good at creating dynamic characters with complications and quirks who genuinely interact with one another. His dialogue, in particular, feels so realistic you think you might just be sitting in a cafe, next to those two men, as they argue over philosophy and politics.
The Discovery of Heaven is much more enjoyable than many of the other Dutch classics I have tackled and, most importantly, it feels quintessentially Dutch. Just skim the parts where the angels are talking. Review by Molly Quell
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