The Discovery of Heaven

( 5 )

Overview

The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch's magnum opus, is a rich mosaic of twentieth-century trauma in which many themes?friendship, loyalty, family, art, technology, religion, fate, good, and evil?suffuse a suspenseful and resplendent narrative.

The story begins with the meeting of Onno and Max, two complicated individuals whom fate has mysteriously and magically brought together. They share responsibility for the birth of a remarkable and radiant boy who embarks on a mandated ...

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Overview

The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch's magnum opus, is a rich mosaic of twentieth-century trauma in which many themes—friendship, loyalty, family, art, technology, religion, fate, good, and evil—suffuse a suspenseful and resplendent narrative.

The story begins with the meeting of Onno and Max, two complicated individuals whom fate has mysteriously and magically brought together. They share responsibility for the birth of a remarkable and radiant boy who embarks on a mandated quest that takes the reader all over Europe and to the land where all such quests begin and end. Abounding in philosophical, psychological and theological inquiries, yet laced with humor that is as infectious as it is willful, The Discovery of Heaven lingers in the mind long after it has been read. It not only tells an accessible story, but also convinces one that it just might be possible to bring order into the chaos of the world through a story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a new novel bulging with metaphysical speculation, Dutch author Mulisch masterfully intersperses mathematics, biology, linguistics, numerology, philosophy and theology. When two strangers meet on a cold night in The Hague, Onno Quist, a linguist and politician from a well-to-do family, and Max Delius, an astronomer, have no idea that their relationship will change the course of human existence. Their meeting, however, like many of the momentous events that occur in the novel, is no accident of chance. It is the product of the careful manipulations by two angels acting at the request of God, who, upset that people are on the verge of mapping the genetic code and thus deciphering the secret of creation, desires to wash His hands of His creation. Disgusted with human behavior, the two angels plot to retrieve the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, thus breaking God's covenant with humanity. The two angels surmise that the 17th-century philosopher of science Francis Bacon made a pact with the devil for which all of mankind must atonebecause scientific knowledge quickly superseded humanity's belief in God. The angels contrive a series of complex events involving Onno, Max and Ada Brons, a bright and beautiful cellist, in order to create Quinten, the boy who will be their unwitting instrument for fulfilling God's doomsday plan. As Onno, Max and Quinten think and work through their lives, they arrive, ultimately, at the impossible and forbiddenthe discovery of heaven by means of science rather than faith. God has never been so unforgiving. Hope remains, however, that the next fallen angel might be more benevolent than the last. Mulisch, author of the critically hailed Last Call and The Assault, has created a masterpiece that not only brings his characters closer to discovering heaven but also prods them nearer to knowing themselves. Remarkably, he escalates his plot to ever more complex levels of thought without diminishing the strong, suspenseful and, in Vincent's fluid translation, often funny narrative thrust. This is novel-writing on a gloriously grand, hubristic scale. Nov.
Library Journal
Two conniving angels discuss how they will create an agent to find and return the original Ten Commandment tablets to heaven. They bring about the meeting of two brilliant men: astronomer Max Delius, son of a Nazi father and a Jewish mother, and eccentric linguist Onno Quist, son of a former Dutch prime minister. Immediate soul mates, they let only beautiful cellist Ada Brons into their friendship. The left-wing, free-thinking, exhilarating spirit of the 1960s culminates in a trip Ada, Max, and Onno take to Cuba, where Ada conceives a child whose father could be either Max or Onno. Renowned Dutch author Mulisch (Last Call, Viking, 1991) uses this framework to create an exceptional novel of ideas. Wonderful characters, flashes of humor, and brilliant insights make this long novel well worth reading.Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140239379
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 363,756
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry Mulisch is author of the international bestsellers The Assault, The Discovery of Heaven, and The Procedure, as well as other novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, and philosophical works.

Paul Vincent lives in London and translated Harry Mulisch's previous two novels.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Whatever your beliefs, this book will get you thinking in new ways.

    Harry Mulisch takes on life, the universe, and everything (without apology to any other writer) and creates a giant story that almost makes sense of the crazy universe we live in. With a depth of intrigue and religious mystery that was so sorely missed in pseudo-theological novels (think Dan Brown) and a heartfelt humanity that reminds me of A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Discovery of Heaven is really a discovery and exploration of the basic questions of existence. The eccentric cast of characters, caught up in a world not unlike that of the ancient Greeks, where the Gods toy with humanity for their own selfish ends, struggle to find meaning and purpose in their difficult and expansive lives. The adage "everything happens for a reason" takes on profound theological, psychological, and philosophical depth. Mulisch draws on classical mythology, religion, Freud, and literature to create a story that covers generations, decades, and continents, and at the end, leaves the reader gasping in amazement. There really are more questions than answers in life and to have a skilled novelist convey that message in a story that completely satisfies is a miracle unto itself. READ THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2001

    Another Harry Mulish masterpiece

    Being Dutch, I read the book in the original language, and being a stupid technician the very intelligent parts were too much... The remaining, understandable parts for my simple soul were brilliant, an astonishing blend of truth and totaly ridiculous fiction. Many things were so very accurate and recogniseable that the fiction is taken along with is. (For me, Dutch politicians, Cuba, and the 1960's dutch decorum) Recommended to read the book BEFORE you go to the movie! Although the book counts about 800 pages, it reads in just a few days, you can't stop!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2000

    enchanting

    I read The Discovery of Heaven with constant delight. Page after page, I was completely charmed and stimulated by the characters, their thoughts, their exchanges and actions. The larger subtext of book (my interpretation only), which examined the intricate relationship and interconnectedness of events and people seemingly far removed from one another, fascinated me from the first moment of the serendipitous meeting of Max and Onno. This is a brilliant ride of a book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2008

    Harry Mulisch is smarter than I am

    This is my favorite book. Since reading this for the first time I have read each of Mulisch's other books, and recently returned to re-read the Discovery of Heaven. I enjoyed the book just as much, if not more, than the first time. Mulisch writes knowledgeably about a wide range of topics, each of which I found absorbing. It is a fulfilling and enjoyable read, and I doubt that I have read it for the last time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    Loved it!

    This is such a beautiful book, everyone should read it and ideally afterwards visit Rome! I found the film slightly disappointing

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