The Assaultby Harry Mulisch
Based on actual events, The Assault traces the complex/i>
It is the winter of 1945, the last dark days of World War II in occupied Holland. A Nazi collaborator, infamous for his cruelty, is assassinated as he rides home on his bicycle. The Germans retaliate by burning down the home of an innocent family; only twelve-year-old Anton survives.
Based on actual events, The Assault traces the complex repercussions of this horrific incident on Anton's life. Determined 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 others who were involved in the assassination and its aftermath, until Anton finally learns what really happened that night in 1945—and why.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
“It is as a parable of war, whose guilts and neuroses reach well into the present, that this novel is so is so persuasive. We may read The Assault in part as a thriller. But it is a political thriller that removes the postwar scar tissue protecting society. And it is a psychological thriller probing the moral devastation between neighbors, fellow students, husbands and wives. . . . It is Mulisch’s triumph to have revealed all this with an X-ray cunning.”
—The New York Times Book Review
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
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Meet the Author
Born in 1927 to a Jewish mother whose family died in the concentration camps and an Austrian father who was jailed after the war for collaborating with the Nazis, HARRY MULISCH is one of Holland's most acclaimed writers. He is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, nonfiction, commentary, plays, and poetry, many of them having as their subject the Second World War. The Assault has been translated into more than two dozen languages and was made into an Academy Award–winning film in 1986. Mulisch died in 2010.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In postwar literature the horrors of Naziism tend to be painted in broad strokes. Writers like Gunter Grass and Heinrich Boll have created masterpieces in which they explore the larger implications and impact of National Socialism. In The Assault Harry Mulisch narrows it all down to a finer point; the impact of one event on the life of one man. In occupied Holland, just weeks before liberation, a Nazi collaborator is shot in front of 12 y/o Anton Steenwijk's house. The events that quickly follow will shape the rest of Anton's life. In this short novel we follow Anton through all the rage, grief, and confusion he feels as he tries to move on. As Anton, and we, slowly learn more about that night we find our initial assumptions being challenged. And through Anton Mulisch gives us a clear picture of all the rage, grief, and confusion that was WWII. The Assault is one of the finest pieces of postwar literature you'll ever read.
The structure is brilliant, and the story packs the punch of great moral fiction. The eponymous assault, a shocking event that changes the narrator's life, is first seen by him as a child, but in no way understood except as it affects him personally. Then scene by scene as he grows up, Mulisch adds to his understanding of why what happened happened and what it means, until by the end the motives of all the actors in the event are understandable, and even compel forgiveness. A thrilling piece of craft, and art.
Each of Mulisch's novels deals in one way or another with the myriad ways in which things that happened in the past continue to effect our lives, and how they help to mold us into the people we are. In this novel he discusses how the terrible things that occured in WWII can leave one mentally and emotionally scarred, and I think it grants each of us an insight into human nature, and the ways in which we are able to cope with horrific experiences. Mulisch writes from a uniquely Dutch perspective, but in most cases his stories could have happened in any of the countries occupied by the Germans in WWII.