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A work of dramatised history with fictional pretensions,
This review is from: HHhH (Hardcover)
'HHhH' is a retelling of the story of the assassination of Reinhold Heydrich by members of the Czech resistance in 1942, and of the infamous massacre of the inhabitants of the village of Lidice as a consequence. The author describes it as a novel. In fact, there is little to distinguish the book's form from that of any other recreation of the same events beyond the author's insistence on interpellating details of the circumstances of the book's composition and his musings on the relationship between historical fact and 'recreated' fact in the absence of evidence.
The result is a thin postmodern veneer - intellectually, Binet is not exactly Foucault or Barthes - over an otherwise unremarkable book. The reader's patience with this will depend on how far he or she finds the author's narratorial personality agreeable and his remarks about fiction and history interesting, rather than banal and distracting. Binet seems to believe his audience will find it a novelty that historians are forced to give shape to their narratives in ways that resemble the tactics of writers of fiction.
When Binet sticks to dramatising the story he tells it well, and the reader who comes to 'HHhH' for the story alone will find this book very readable. No novelist could improve on the cast of characters, or the drama of the events around the assassination and the climactic siege.
I enjoyed the book without ever feeling that it was a transformative experience. Nothing is to be gained by describing it as a work of fiction: it is simply a work of dramatised history embroidered - and in my view weakened - by the author's insistence on drawing attention to himself. On this showing Binet is a competent but rather self-regarding writer with ambitions beyond his undoubted abilities and little new to say.