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The Assault by Harry Mulisch

The Assault (original 1982; edition 1986)

by Harry Mulisch

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1,569214,666 (3.82)35
Title:The Assault
Authors:Harry Mulisch
Info:Pantheon (1986), Edition: American ed, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Assault by Harry Mulisch (1982)

Recently added byTytti-K, VictoriaCoeln, donnambr, thebigidea, private library, CliffBurns, seth_g, S1080957, s1076382
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English (12)  Dutch (8)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
"He...stood with his back to the future and his face toward the past. Whenever he thought about time, which he did once in a while, he did not conceive of events as coming out of the future to move through the present into the past. Instead, they developed out of the past in the present on their way to an unknown future."

This is a book about memory and how a memory -- in this case the massacre of the Dutch protagonist's family by the Germans in the closing days of World War II -- shapes a life. Young people are often puzzled by The Assault; the young do not face toward the past. "But nothing exists in the future; it is empty; one might die at any minute."

Anton is 12 when the act takes place. By the end of the book, he is older than his father lived to be. The reader is present for brief episodes through Anton's life, each of which reveals to him a little more about the circumstances of the atrocity, the expanding ripples of cause and effect, and the convoluted nature of guilt and innocence.

In the final pages, Anton stands with his beloved son, named after his murdered brother, in the midst of a peace demonstration in a Cold War Europe, his questions answered at last. At the edge of the demonstration, "a group of boys about sixteen years old came out of a side street. All had shaved heads, black leather jackets, black pants, and black boots with metal heels."

"But what does it matter? Everything is forgotten in the end. The shouting dies down, the waves subside, and all is silent once more." ( )
  seth_g | Oct 31, 2014 |
This is quite good. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
When I was going through my husbands books he once bought for Dutch class in high school, all considered must-read Dutch 'classics' (some are too new I think to be considered classics) I noticed that a lot deal with World War II, either during or the aftermath. I never really enjoyed books about war, because the horrors hit pretty close to home. My grandparents lived through this, for them this wasn't fiction, it was cold, hard, reality. However, the reason these books are considered classics, and are nearly mandatory reading for all high school students in The Netherlands is because they help us understand what war was like for average people. And that the war wasn't over on May 5th 1945 for most of them. Now my opinion is that it's good to learn about that period in history, to understand more about our country, and our family too.
'De aanslag' by Harry Mulisch is one of those books. Anton Steenwijk lives with his parents and brother on the outskirts of Haarlem. One night in January 1945 they are playing a board-game in the kitchen, cold and hungry but together. They hear shots outside and see a body, that of Fake Ploeg, a policeman and NSB member. And then they see their neighbors moving the body from in front of their house, to in front of the Steenwijk's house. Anton's brother Peter goes outside to move the body away from their house, but then the Germans arrive. Peter flees. Anton and his parents are forced outside. His parents are taken away and their house is torched and burns to the ground. Anton is taken to the police-station and ends up at his aunt and uncle's house in Amsterdam.
The rest of the book tells the story of how Anton deals with this event in the rest of his life. In several episodes he meets people who all were connected to the attack, such as the son of Fake Ploeg, one of the resistance fighters involved in the assassination and the neighbors. Because of these encounters he slowly comes to terms with his own feelings, and the feeling of those around him. For example, it takes him a while to realize that his daughter, born after the war, really has a different way of looking at that time than he does.
I really enjoyed this book, for as far as you can enjoy a book about such a horrible and tragic event, based on reality. The book helps the reader empathize with those who survived the war, and to realize that every choice made has consequences for others. When I started I could not put it down, and read the book in one sitting. Five out of five stars. ( )
  divinenanny | Nov 27, 2013 |
This is the story of a Dutch family, who are targeted and destroyed when a Nazi collaborator is killed in the street near their dwelling. Only their youngest son Anton survives. The author checks in with Anton throughout his life, illustrating the lasting effects of war on the human spirit. ( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |
Weer zo'n klassiek verhaal van Harry Mulisch. Heerlijk om te lezen en te herlezen. ( )
  JKoetsier | Jul 13, 2010 |
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Overal was het al dag, maar hier was het nacht, neen, meer dan nacht. - C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Epistulae, VI, 16
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Weit, weit zurück, im Zweiten Weltkrieg wohnte ein gewisser Anton Steenwijk mit seinen Eltern und seinem Bruder am Stadtrand von Harleem.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394744209, Paperback)

A novel that probes moral devastation following a Nazi retaliation in a Dutch town. The Assault has been translated and published to great critical acclaim throughout Europe and in the United States.

It is the winter of 1945, the last dark days of the ware in occupied Holland. A Nazi collaborator, infamous for his cruelty, is assassinated as he rides on his bicycle. The Germans retaliate by slaughtering an innocent family: only the youngest son, twelve-year-old Anton, survives.

The Assault traces the complex repercussions of this nightmarish event on Anton's life. Determined not to forget, he opts for a carefully normal existence—a prudent marriage, a successful career, and colorless passivity. But the past keeps breaking through, in relentless memories and in chance encounters with the other actors in the drama, until Anton finally learns what really happened that night in 1945, and why.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:42 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The execution of a collaborator and Nazi retaliation on the family of twelve-year-old Anton Steenwijk have lasting repercussions in Anton's life as he learns, through chance encounters, the truth of one harrowing night.

(summary from another edition)

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