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HHhH by Laurent Binet
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HHhH

by Laurent Binet

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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923729,474 (3.9)79
Recently added byErin.Patel, jackdeighton, private library, elenchus, Johannes89, adebadebadeb, YossarianXeno
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    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.
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» See also 79 mentions

English (46)  Dutch (14)  Spanish (6)  French (4)  Danish (2)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
To get away with constant metafictional intrusions and backtracks and historigraphical excursions and surprisethatdidntreallyhappens and thatdetailringsfalselemmejustgetthatforyas like Binet does, you have to be not only smart (of course), but either really really funny or really really sincere. And since this is a book about Nazis, that pretty much leaves only the latter. Binet manages both--tells the parallel stories of Gabčik and Kubiš and of Heydrich, aka the Blond Beast, aka to his little fucking German classmates "Süss the Jew" because there's no loathing like self-loathing (he was not, in fact, Jewish, but well, clearly Heydrich is gonna have a head full of burn-the-world-down about it, you know?) with appropriate hero worship (but thoughtful) and appalled (but still thoughtful) execration, respectively--the healthy horror of the healthy mind in a healthy body who hits the gym and has a couple glasses of wine a night and has regrets about his lost Slovak love but not like cut-your-wrists regrets. you know? Binet is very clever and very well adjusted and just seems like a nice guy, and that's the only reason we tolerate all the dicking around he does of us. I mean, I do; I see others quibble. I like nice guys.

Anyway, there is an obsessive but not so much that it's aesthetically displeasing, let us say "painterly," level of detail about the target and the leadup and most of it seems actually actual, and really if this is the kind of book you're reading to learn about Heydrich you don't care if you get a few salient details wrong, or I guess I mean if a few of the wrong details strike you as salient. You know? I'm not gonna read Group Captain Archibald Baldarchison's The Guns They Carried. I thought interesting thoughts about how weird-quixotic it is that we try to "get inside" history, but what a piece of shit history would be if we couldn't, and the moments leading up to the assassination and the aftermath (Lidice is slighted, in a way, but it's a story that almost asks to be slighted. Everyone died. No, no reason. To spend too long learning about all their lives and loves so you can feel maudlin and not just sick about it almost lets their SS murderers off the hook). The time-stands-still stuff, the how-did-i-get-here-this-is-not-my-beautiful-wife only it really isn't it's actually you just tried to kill Heydrich and your piece of shit Sten gun jammed and now you're looking at him and he's looking at you and a bird is shitting on his towncar and the kid on the other side of the tram just let go of his balloon and this is your life--that stuff was deeply skilled, a flight of literary artistry that Binet spent the whole book working himself up for. He's not a genius but I bet if you met him you'd think wow this guy is good at everything and he's totally going home with the really pretty tall girl, isn't he.

Gabčik and Kubiš have a bit of that to them too, maybe why Binet likes them. They shook the thrones of the mighty. Their last stand was brave. Doing a little 200-page writeup to remind people of that and also what slavering monsters actually took over a whole huge European country seems like a reasonable thing to do. ( )
2 vote MeditationesMartini | Aug 15, 2014 |
This might be a very good work if it weren't for Binet's constant intrusion of himself into his own novel. It gets to the point where he even subjects his readers to his own literary opinions--for instance attacking Jonathan Littel's The kindly ones and even taking a swipe at Michel Houellebecq. Basically his novel could have been edited down another 50 pages and been a lot better for it. Personally I like a lot about it but the author who is a literature professor is pretty much treating his readers like they were just another one of his classes. It struck me as a bit assholish. Not sure I'm going to give him another chance. ( )
1 vote lriley | Aug 12, 2014 |
Nominally, HHhH is a WWII novel about the assassination of Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution, by a pair of exiled Czechoslovakian operatives. In fact, it’s a sly, metafictional takedown of historical fiction as a genre. Binet narrates the book himself, breaking into the narrative at random intervals to announce that his girlfriend just left him, or that the previous riveting action sequence never really took place: he just made it up because the only book he could find on the subject was in German (which of course he doesn’t speak). It’s funny, exasperating, and smart. Once you read it you’ll never be able to look at a historical novel in the same way again. ( )
1 vote circumspice | Jul 16, 2014 |
A spellbinding retelling of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by a Czech and a Slovak acting parachuted into occupied Czechoslovakia by British intelligence. It provides a mini-biography of Heydrich, his rise to power, and his brutality--not just as one of the architects of the Final Solution but also as the overlord of occupied Czechoslovakia (or technically occupied Bohemia and Moravia as Slovakia was a German puppet state). It also tells somewhat more briefly, likely reflecting the dearth of information, the story of how the assassins, Jan KubiÁ and Jozef Gab€Ì_k, escaped the Nazis, ended up in England, were trained for the mission and parachuted back in.

The conclusion following Heydrich's assassination is even more heartbreaking than the rest of the book, depicting both the brutal and borderline random German reprisals and the tragic deaths of KubiÁ and Gab€Ì_k.

Judging from the few reviews I quickly skimmed, I'm in the minority in liking the authors method which is to tell the story in short chapters (about 270 in all) with frequent postmodern intrusions of the authorial voice talking about how he is writing the book, the books he read to research it, where he is not sure of the facts (in some cases going back and correcting earlier chapters), how he is incapable of rendering the full tribute that the Czechoslovak partisans deserve, etc. I found the story was so powerful that these frequent authorial intrusions did not diminish it in any way. And in fact they enhanced it by making you more confident in the credibility of the story, which itself allows you to be more immersed in it, because the author is so clear about the limits of his telling that you are that much more confident in what is there. (Plus I got a few more recommendations of books I had never heard of but now am interested in reading.) ( )
2 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
A special book.
A book about a story to be told. A real life story, the killing of Heydrich in World War II by the resistance.
But more then that, a book about the writer of the book, written by himself.
His emotions, his sympathy or not, his view, his showing off with how many other authors he knows, he disapproves, ....
But intriguing, compelling, sucking you in .... In this to be told story, in this story that everyone should read.
So that we should know that heroes exist, not th'e two gunmen, but ordinary civilians risking their lives for.... For what? For freedom? Ouch.... Too high. For their country? Ouch ... Way too far. For friendship maybe, or for what they believe deep in themselves is right or wrong!
As i said, ordinary people. But certainly heroes! ( )
  Lunarreader | Jun 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 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
Nes, Liesbeth vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, SamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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"
Dedication
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Gabčík—that's his name—really did exist.
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What would be the point of 'inventing' Nazism?
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Book description
Haiku summary
A Slovak and a
Czech carefully plan Heydrich's
Assassination.
(passion4reading)
Jozef Gabĉík and
Jan Kubiŝ - remember their
Names and bravery.
(passion4reading)

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(see all 2 descriptions)

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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