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The Assault by Harry Mulisch
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The Assault (1982)

by Harry Mulisch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,843315,680 (3.83)154
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English (20)  Dutch (10)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I don't have much to say here. I enjoyed this. If one were to read it without any sense of emotion or history, it is a detective story, of a murdered collaborator and the family whose doorstep he winds up at. But it is so much more than that. As one of the blurbs on the back of the book nicely puts it, it is "a dark fable about design and accident, strength and weakness, and the ways in which guilt and innocence can overlap and intermingle." Easily recommended. And, since I really don't have anything more to elaborate on, I will just drop some lines I enjoyed.

"Everything was made of dirty, rattling steel, which somehow told him more about the war than he had ever understood before."

"Boundaries have to be continuously sealed off, but it's a hopeless job, for everything touches everything else in this world. A beginning never disappears, not even with the ending."

"Besides, whoever keeps the future in front of him and the past at his back is doing something else that is hard to imagine. For the image implies that events somehow already exist in the future, reach the present at a determined moment, and finally come to rest in the past. But nothing exists in the future; it is empty; one might die at any minute. Therefore such a person has his face turned towards the void, whereas it is the past behind him that is visible, stored in the memory." ( )
1 vote .Monkey. | Jan 11, 2018 |
This is a very exciting and interesting story. Anton, as a boy, experiences an assassination at his doorstep, which changes and shapes his whole life. It is in the winter of 1945, shortly before the end of the war, when Anton, with this incident, becomes an orphan. He tells his story in different episodes of his life, while he is constantly confronted with this incident, either because he meets people from then or he gradually understands what really happened.
Muslisch has done a masterpiece with this fiction. His writing style is great. He can let the reader dive into the story from the very first moment. All protagonists have something special. I never had the feeling for someone to take special party.
This is a book that I highly recommend. ( )
  Ameise1 | Jun 4, 2017 |
This is a wonderful short novel about the absurdity of notions of guilt vs innocence, especially in times of war. Anton is twelve years old, just trying to survive WWII with his parents and his older brother, when a police officer is gunned down in the street near their house. After the neighbors drag the corpse to the walk in front of Anton's family's house, Anton's parents and brother are murdered in retaliation. The novel explores the role this trauma plays in the rest of Anton's life, and we see the parallels between political and personal paths as they are determined by the vagaries of circumstance. The novel loses half a star for its too many far-fetched coincidences that enable Anton's unfolding consciousness, but the novelist can be forgiven for utilizing these devices in order to touch the reader as he does. In the end, the layers of paradox are simply stunning. ( )
1 vote EBT1002 | Feb 27, 2017 |
A gripping WWII novel, set in a war-torn Dutch town. After a A Nazi collaborator, is gunned down, while riding home on his bicycle, setting off repercussions, that resonate, with all the people involved, guilty and innocent, through the rest of their haunted lives. An excellent look at the ravages of war. ( )
1 vote msf59 | Feb 12, 2017 |
This brilliant novel opens in the Dutch city of Haarlem in early 1945, during the Hongerwinter, the famine that afflicted millions of residents of the German-occupied western portion of the Netherlands due to a blockage of food and fuel by the Nazis. Anton Steenwijk, a 12 year old boy, and his parents and older brother were spending a quiet evening at home, huddled around a lantern to keep warm and trying to keep hunger out of their minds. Their peace was broken by the sound of nearby gunshots, and when they looked outside they noticed the body of a man lying in front of their next door neighbors' house. Those neighbors then moved the body to the front of the Steenwijk's house, and they saw that the dead man was the local Inspector of Police, a notorious collaborator who was reviled and feared for his cruelty towards his fellow citizens. The family panicked, and after German soldiers arrive the Steenwijks are falsely accused of the murder. Anton is separated from the rest of his family, taken briefly to a local prison for the night, and later he learns of their fate.

Anton is sent to live with his well to do uncle and aunt in Amsterdam, where he studies and establishes himself in a notable profession. He is haunted by the events of that fateful evening, and although his future is a bright one with a beautiful young wife and child his view is to the past, as he desires to learn what happened to his parents and brother, and to find out more about the events that led up to the Inspector's shooting. He eventually meets key people who were involved with or were observers of the episode, and those encounters, along with fragments of his memory that he is able to uncover, permit him to piece together the full story of that night in Haarlem.

The Assault is a powerful and unforgettable novel about memory, responsibiiity, and one's past history and how it affects, and sometimes mars, the future, which is relevant not only to survivors of war and personal strife, but to anyone who has experienced a difficult or eventful past life. The book was the source of a movie of the same name, which won won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film that same year. Harry Mulisch is considered to be one of the Great Three Dutch postwar writers, along with Willem Frederik Hermans and Gerard Reve, and this outstanding novel makes it easy to see why this is the case. ( )
9 vote kidzdoc | Jan 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harry Mulischprimary authorall editionscalculated
Milan HulsingCartoonistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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Ver, ver weg in de tweede wereldoorlog woonde een zekere Anton Steenwijk met zijn ouders en zijn broer aan de rand van Haarlem.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:28 -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.

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