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HHhH by Laurent Binet


by Laurent Binet

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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862None10,326 (3.93)75
2012 (10) 2013 (8) 21st century (13) assassination (7) Czechoslovakia (23) ebook (13) fiction (97) France (18) French (24) French literature (30) Germany (12) Heydrich (31) historical (10) historical fiction (35) historical novel (11) history (43) Holocaust (12) literature (12) Nazi (8) Nazis (8) Nazism (28) non-fiction (8) novel (16) Prague (44) resistance (14) Roman (23) to-read (33) translated (8) war (12) WWII (129)
  1. 81
    The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (yokai)
  2. 10
    Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth (meggyweg)
  3. 10
    Jan Karski by Yannick Haenel (yokai)
  4. 00
    Resistance by Gerald Brennan (atbradley)
  5. 00
    Walhalla-Code: Kriminalroman by Uwe Klausner (passion4reading)
    passion4reading: A work of historical crime fiction, this nevertheless has Heydrich's assassination at its heart and deals with some of the fallout, both factual and fictitious.
  6. 11
    Mendelssohn Is on the Roof by Jiří Weil (gust)
  7. 11
    The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (gust)
    gust: Ook hier verzetsleden die een dictator doden.

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» See also 75 mentions

English (40)  Dutch (13)  Spanish (6)  French (4)  Danish (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Really really enjoyed this book. Easy to read, exciting, different. I loved how the author discussed his own journey to discovery and his qualms about writing the book. I had never heard of the assassination attempt on Heydrich previously so I also learnt a lot ( )
  Cfraser | Feb 12, 2014 |
Awkward title aside, this was fairly brilliant. Binet is a French author, and in his own words HHhH is an infranovel. It is a dual narrative, with the author as narrator in the present, as well as, simultaneously, an account of Operation Anthropoid, the attempt to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich – Himmler’s right hand man, architect of the Final Solution, and brutal Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia known as “The Butcher of Prague.” The narrative taking place in the present is that of the author, of his struggles with his story, with only a few interesting droplets about his life. The author's narrative makes this novel into something more than "just" a novel about Heydrich's assassination. It becomes a postmodern treatise on the novel -- even while, somehow, critiquing the nihilism of postmodernism -- and a discussion on truth.

To be fair, the historical narrative is also more than the story of Heydrich's death. It is the story of his life and the lives of those who killed him. It is the context of all these lives: central European history, the Great War, the rise of National Socialism, anti-semitism, the betrayal of the Munich Agreement, Prague. At times, Binet's scope is incredibly broad, but perhaps because of the author's narrative, HHhH feels very intimate. The author's narrative serves to remind the reader why, for example, we are reading about medieval German settlement in Bohemia or other such interesting but seemingly unrelated stories. Beyond these reminders, the author allows the reader to see into his mind, his obsession with Operation Anthropoid, to experience his doubts, his concerns about what to include and not to include, and, in a more limited sense, the effects of writing and obsession on loved ones. While the author’s narrative is not the traditional account of his own life so common to dual narratives, it is certainly the account of the life this novel.

HHhH is thought provoking on many levels: the philosophical issues of crafting the novel, of story telling, of truth, of what motivates men to brutality and hate and bravery and betrayal. The struggle in HHhH is not really about whether the two Czechoslovak heroes will successfully assassinate Heydrich; that story is, if not well-known today, easily checked. HHhH is also the struggle of the author to not lose himself in the often self-centered questions of his own life, at the expense of those whose lives he is recounting. Just like our heroes, the author is successful. We still hear the historical narrative, loud and clear, in all its harshness and brutality. For Heydrich was a brutal man; his reign as "protector" of Bohemia and Moravia was marked by extreme cruelty and violence, as were the reactions of the Nazi regime on the Czech people after his assassination. This makes HHhH, at times, difficult to read. But Binet also recounts stunning, shining, astonishing examples of bravery – the sort that make you wonder, what if it were me? – that counteract the darkness of Nazism.

The heroes of Operation Anthropoid paid for their success with their lives; the reader is left wondering what his authorial success cost our narrator. ( )
1 vote anthroabby | Jan 15, 2014 |
Original. Creative. Surprising. Not words that I normally use to describe WWII literature. But Laurent Binet's novel is all of these. Ostensibly about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the subsequent reprisals taken against the perpetrators and the Czech population, the novel is also an exploration of what it means to be obsessed with World War II and how our obsessions and experiences influence how we write about the past and thereby change how others in turn perceive it.

Reinhard Heydrich was Himmler's right hand man in the SS, thus coining the phrase "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich (HHhH)", which translates to "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich". After the annexation of the Sudetenland and breaking off of Slovakia, the Nazi's decided that they needed a strong hand in the Czech and Bohemian Protectorate in order to maintain order and, more importantly, keep the industrialized Czech factories producing at top speed for the German army. Heydrich is sent to squelch any possible disruption caused by native Czech resistance, which he does with swift and horrifying brutality. The Czech government in exile decides to send a pair of operatives (one Czech and one Slovak) to assassinate Heydrich. Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš parachute into the Protectorate and eventually succeed in fatally wounding Heydrich, provoking one of the greatest manhunts by the SS. In the meantime, a small village with a tenuous link to one of the assassins is completely destroyed in retaliation.

If the book were simply about the assassination and the fate of the two parachutists, it would be interesting, but hardly original. Although the story is not extremely well-known, it is part of the lore of WWII. But Binet does something different. He uses the character of the author (how closely this character resembles himself, the reader is let to surmise) to talk about the process of writing the novel, thus creating a work that is self-aware and reflective. In first person conversation with the reader, the character/author describes his obsession with World War II and Czechoslovakia, his visits to Prague to pay homage to sites important to the story, his research, and how this passion effects his relationships. He constantly interrupts the narrative to interject his own feelings, questions about whether he is digressing, and how a newly discovered piece of information changes his perspective. I found myself cheering when he finds a book that he has needed in his research, wondering along with him whether Heydrich's car really was black, and commiserating when he can find no further data on a particular line of inquiry. One is tempted to forget that this is historical fiction and believe it a memoir. But instead it is a very clever piece of metafiction.

Lest you think this all rather boring and dry, let me assure you that it is funny and an absolute page turner. Each chapter is only a few paragraphs long, and they fly by. His description of the seven resistance fighters trapped in the crypt of a church surrounded by over 700 SS soldiers is absolutely spellbinding. I have never read such a creative narrative of accurate history. Fabulous and highly recommended. ( )
9 vote labfs39 | Nov 6, 2013 |
Binet brings the true story of the assassination of Heydrich, Himmler & Hitler's henchman & the author of the final solution, to life in this 'novel' . Mixing factual account with commentary on the events & writing a novel, Binet kept me on the edge of my seat; his narration of the horrors & atrocities of the Nazis & the brave people who resisted fascism was powerfully told & gripping. ( )
  sianpr | Oct 16, 2013 |
Establishing a new genre, the infranovel (his own term), Laurent Binet gives a very moving and often harrowing account of Jozef Gabĉík and Jan Kubiŝ's escape from the Nazis, their training in Britain, and their careful preparations to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest-ranking Nazis in the Third Reich, which so very nearly failed. Binet describes his research process and his attempts to put historical facts to paper without reducing the characters to mere names in a historical novel; the result is a curious and very personal mixture of snippets of fictionalised action and non-fiction, but it works, because Binet immerses himself head to toe in the work, and the enthusiasm for his subject and the admiration for the Czechoslovak Resistance fighters is obvious and infectious. This book should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the Second World War. ( )
  passion4reading | Oct 12, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurent Binetprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Botto, MargheritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elewa, AdlyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, SamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Once again, the writer stains the tree of History with his thoughts, but it is not for us to find the trick that would enable us to put the animal back in its carrying cage.

—Osip Mandelstam, "The End of the Novel"
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Gabčík—that's his name—really did exist.
What would be the point of 'inventing' Nazism?
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A Slovak and a
Czech carefully plan Heydrich's
Jozef Gabĉík and
Jan Kubiŝ - remember their
Names and bravery.

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Imagines the story of two Czechoslovakian partisans responsible for assassinating the "Butcher of Prague" Reinhard Heydrich, traces their escape from the Nazis and recruitment by the British secret service.

» see all 5 descriptions

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