HHhH Paperback – 3 Jan 2013
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"Vividly recreates the assassination of Heydrich and its consequences" (John Le Carré Telegraph)
"Laurent Binet’s HHhH is hard to categorise. All is can say is that it has the same gravity-defying balance of weight and light as early Milan Kundera" (Janice Turner The Times)
"Utterly amazing ... likely to make you gasp, laugh and cry often within a few pages" (Savidge Reads)
"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)
An astonishing, unforgettable novel: a thrilling Second World War assassination plot told with rare literary brilliance.See all Product description
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I don't really know if I'm qualified to judge, but I thought the translator did a good job too.
As a non-technical description, I would say this reads as a non-fiction account of true events, told in a relaxed, chatty style. It's not too hard to read, although I'm not a fan of non-fiction. The author is very concerned with presenting the truth (or at least, says they are). It is as much about the challenges of writing a historically accurate novel about real people, and how much artistic licence should be allowed, as it is about the actual assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.
One of my gripes about novels featuring real people, particularly those from recent history, is that you can never be sure what is true and what isn't, and are left feeling that you may have gained an unfair or inaccurate impression. So really I should love the care Binet apparently takes to report the truth and to point out whenever he may have used a bit of imagination. But I'd have loved it more if he'd written a gripping novel about fictional characters and left the real people out altogether. If I want to read about real history, I'll read a history book. If I want to read a novel, I like to be able to escape into it.
The book does quote quite extensively from other works of fact and fiction on the same events, and contains some spoilers - particularly for Robert Harris' novel `Fatherland', where the entire plot is summarised. Therefore if you are planning to read that book (and I would recommend it), you would be best to read it first, particularly as it is a thriller.
There can be no doubting the dreadfulness of the events depicted and the horrors of Nazism and their brutal suppression of the Czechs and Jews are more awful than anything that could be made up. The tragic events are given the respect they deserve. Having visited Prague and seen the places mentioned and the monuments to the millions who died, this book brought it back to me clearly and despite its lack of direct emotional engagement, is still moving. The effort to tell of the many ordinary people who died unspeakable deaths as a result of the assassination is a worthwhile one.
Readers who like books about writing and the writing process itself should definitely give this a try. I was reminded of Italo Calvino's `If On A Winter's Night A Traveller', although I found that book far superior to this one. Also anyone with an interest in the Nazis or World War II should add it to their reading list. Readers who prefer fact and non-fiction to conventional novels will be at home with this. Those who prefer escapism and understanding the thoughts of the characters would be better off finding something else.
This was one of these times. The book is throughly post-modern, and is labelled as fiction - despite describing historical fact. The story is not just of Heydrich and the assassination attempt on his life, but of the author's passion for it, his elation and frustrations in researching his subject matter. It also stories the misconceptions of the event, trying to separate fact and fiction- whilst also acknowledging that he himself maybe guilty of creating fictional elements to a historical event.
The result is a bewitching tale, crammed of information not only about the history but of the literature and filmography that has since occurred. The tale was excellently written throughout, whilst keeping to the subject matter. Rather than editing and correcting his work, Binet chooses to leave in his early entries to demonstrate how difficult it is to tell a story accurately - which makes for an intriguing style of writing.
Saying that, I can understand why this book may not be for everyone - I would suggest, if you were interested purely on the history, is to buy a non-fiction book relating to the subject. Overall, however, I found this book a resounding success.
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