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HHhH [Hardcover]

Laurent Binet , Sam Taylor
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 2012

'HHhH blew me away. Binet's style fuses it all together: a neutral, journalistic honesty sustained with a fiction writer's zeal and story-telling instincts. It's one of the best historical novels I've ever come across.' Bret Easton Ellis

Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services, 'the hangman of Prague', 'the blond beast', 'the most dangerous man in the Third Reich'.

His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says 'Himmler's brain is called Heydrich', which in German spells HHhH.

All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up?

HHhH is a panorama of the Third Reich told through the life of one outstandingly brutal man, a story of unbearable heroism and loyalty, revenge and betrayal. It is improbably entertaining and electrifyingly modern, a moving and shattering work of fiction.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker; First U.K. Edition edition (3 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846554799
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846554797
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


HHhH is a highly original piece of work, at once charming, moving, and gripping (Martin Amis )

HHhH blew me away. Binet's style fuses it all together: a neutral, journalistic honesty sustained with a fiction writer's zeal and story-telling instincts. It's one of the best historical novels I've ever come across (Brett Easton Ellis )

Extraordinary first novel. a literary triumph. The book's final section, which recounts the assassination and subsequent manhunt in minute detail, is a masterpiece of tension, and its closing pages are extremely moving. Very few page-turners come as smart and original as this (The Times )

Mindblowing. obsessed with the past but gleaming with radical innovation, it's urgent and new and terrifying and beautiful and pretty and much the best thing that's happened in fiction for ages (Dazed and Confused )

Magnificent... unsurpassable... told with grace and elegance... exerts a hypnotic sway over the reader... something of a Greek tragedy and of the splendid thriller... All the details have such persuasive force that they remain indelibly recorded in the memory of the reader (Mario Vargas Llosa )

Book Description

An astonishing, unforgettable novel: a thrilling Second World War assassination plot told with rare literary brilliance.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
126 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So what exactly is a novel ? 25 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I must admit this book sent me scurrying to see what the definition of a novel is. It is described on the cover as a novel and inside the author speaks of it as a novel and yet this is the true story of the wartime assassination attempt made on the life of Reinhard Heyrick, "the hangman of Prague", by two Czech resistance fighters sent from London. Its actually much more than that telling as it does of the whole rise of Hitler's Germany but it has a focus on Prague where Heydrich reigned supreme. And it is all true. The events described did happen and all of the characters did exist. There are no made up events, no invented characters, no fictional subplots. The author does make up dialogue to fit scenes for which there are no historical record, but he always makes it clear that in these instances he is writing history as it might have happened, as he would like to think that it happened.

So what makes it a novel ? Laurent Binet adopts the post-modern technique of placing himself inside his story to tell us how it developed, the people he met, the mistakes he made, the books he read and gives us his thoughts and feelings as he "lives" the story. At times he tells events with himself placed in the "now" and sometimes he places himself in Prague at the time events were unfolding. Also the structure does not flow in the linear fashion that a purely historical account might. It moves back and forth from events sometimes major sometimes minor, sometimes just a random quote from a wartime diary, sometimes a few paragraphs to tell how the author came across a related book and what he thought of it. The author is trying to make us experience what it was like to be there and he doesn't have any qualms as to how he goes about it.

And then there is the writing.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By Withnail67 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I spent my Honeymoon in Prague one crisp and clear December, and among the happy memories, I recall coming across the Saints Cyril and Methodius` Cathedral in the middle of the city. What caught my eye wasn't the architecture, but the figure of a World War II `British' paratrooper, depicted by a statue outside the cathedral, surrounded like a saint's statue by lights, candles and flowers, next to a window pulverised by ancient bullet holes.

Like the author of this utterly compelling and innovative novel, I began to read about Operation Anthropoid, the story behind this book. In a popular media haunted by glamorous and glamorised accounts of special operations, the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich still speaks of the creeping terror of resistance operations, and the un-faded horror of the revenge killings executed by an utterly ruthless regime.

The malign genius of the story remains Heydrich, the quintessential Nazi, like yet unlike so many of his superiors and peers. He was not merely a sickeningly twisted inadequate, but had an icy glamour, being a compelling, intelligent figure as well as an amoral force. The story of his assassination and its motivation is dominated by the fear that such an able and lucid man would seize control of Germany's armed forces if anything happened to Hitler. Allied governments feared the power of the Third Reich would be dominated by someone who actually knew what they were doing. A supreme commander who might listen to his generals was too horrific to contemplate. This, combined with the pressures, compromises and anxieties of the Czech government in exile in London, led to the parachute drop of two soldiers, one Czech, one Slovak, on a lonely mission to rid Czechoslovakia and Europe of a tyrant.
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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My review - by Laurent Binet 18 Jan 2013
By Rough Diamond TOP 1000 REVIEWER
It is June 2008. You are in Prague. At the table next to you, on the terrace of the Two Brothers café in the Karlovo Namesti, sits Laurent Binet, typing earnestly into his Apple laptop. The late spring heat is oppressive, but the fatigue in Binet's brown eyes comes less from the weather than from the intensity of his effort. You observe as a bead of sweat trickles down Binet's forehead, before dripping from the tip of his nose onto the heavily annotated manuscript on which he appears to be working. Looking closer, you notice the manuscript is titled "HHhH". What can it mean??

Binet really does exist. A quick wiki search reveals that he was born 40 years ago in Paris and that "HHhH" is his first novel. I'm pretty sure he wrote at least some of it in Prague, and the picture I saw in the `Paris Match' colour supplement makes me think his eyes are probably brown. Or hazel, maybe. But I need to level with you. The scene in the first section of my review is pure invention. I have no idea whether Binet uses an Apple laptop. Did he ever edit his manuscript in the Two Brothers café? I have absolutely no idea.

"Look, don't get me wrong. It's OK, but Umberto Eco was doing this kind of stuff 30 years ago. It's tired, it's stale, it's old hat. Postmodernist narrative structures are so 1980s. Don't take it too hard: the 1942 part of the story is fine, but all that navel gazing about how you did your research? And your relationship with your girlfriend? Come on Laurent, who wants to read that kind of thing?"
This wasn't the reaction Binet had expected from his literary agent. Clearly the manuscript would need another redraft. He sets off crestfallen towards the Two Brothers café.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read with some problems
I found this book enjoyable, because I'm interested in German history of the period, am fond of Prague, and found the book to be very well researched and the author likeable. Read more
Published 16 days ago by A. Paul Webster
1.0 out of 5 stars A great tale ruined by pretentious self-obsessive interventions
The story of the Czech and Slovak soldiers sent to take out Heydrich has it all: risk, intrigue, deception, death, disaster. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and totally memorable
The rating is the highest we can give. It was another terrible factual story about the Nazis written in such a way that you felt you really knew the young boys who managed to kill... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Trish. NIBLOCK
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in months
This book reads like a blog about someone writing a historical novel about the assassination of Heydrich in Prague. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Síol na nGael
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Probably the best book I read in 2013. Laurent Binet is a brilliant writer, and I love the way he has chosen to write all of his experiences and difficulties writing this book into... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jamie Frost
5.0 out of 5 stars bold and experimental
Unnamed narrator of this novel - a writer, like Laurent Binet himself - aims to tell the story of the attempted assassination of SS General Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in May 1942. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ray Garraty
5.0 out of 5 stars A compulsive read that will not be to everyone's taste
The bravery of his assassins and the depravity of the victim mean that books about the killing of Reinhard Heydrich are many; as Laurent Binet states, it is "one of the greatest... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr R
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
This is a quirky book, which might be an unusual thing to say about an historical novel about the third Reich, but I'm not sure how else to describe it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jim 8888
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed
This is neither a novel or a 100% fact based book. It's however a good account of the Czechoslovakia resistance
Published 1 month ago by mixa 101
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fascinating approach!
I visited the church in Prague where the seven parachutists died, in November. So therefore knew quite a bit about the story. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. B. Johnston
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