Harry Mulisch, Siegfried

Often considered Holland’s best hope to win the Nobel Prize, Harry Mulisch has built a reputation chiefly on two powerhouse novels-his World War II epic The Assault, and his sky-spanningly surreal The Discovery of Heaven, an ambitious work in the Umberto Eco vein. Mulisch’s aim in his latest, Siegfried, is pretty ambitious as well-an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the enigmatic evil that drove Adolf Hitler, via a fictional what-if tale involving der FŸhrer’s secret bastard son. It’s only partially successful. Many pages are wasted on a witty but ultimately self-indulgent bookend section concerning a Mulisch-like novelist, but the big problem is one that Mulisch himself takes pains to point out: It would be nearly impossible to create a fictional story more horrible that what the Nazis did in real life. And the sorrows of young Siegfried, while tragic, just don’t measure up. That weakness of the novel in turn makes the final one-third of the book fall apart into nonsense.






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