Book Review: The Assault by Harry Mulisch

Author: Harry Mulisch
Title: The Assault
Publication Info: New York : Pantheon Books, c1985.
ISBN: 0394542452


On a quiet street in Haarlem a Dutch Nazi collaborator is assassinated by the Resistance.  The Germans retaliate by destroying the house in front of which the body was found and executing all of the inhabitants.  The sole survivor is 12-year old Anton.  Anton manages to lead a seemingly normal life albeit one directed by apathy. The novel follows Anton’s life through various episodes in which he forced to recall that night and learn scraps of the truth behind why his family was killed.  Mulisch writes a thought-provoking novel about the moral gray areas in wartime but not without some hope and humor.

Favorite Passages:

Only later did Anton realize that almost nobody voted rationally, but simply out of self-interest, or because he felt an affinity for the members of a certain party, or because the leading candidate inspired confidence.  It was phsycobiological, in a way. In a subsequent election he voted somewhat more conservatively, for a newly founded party that claimed that the difference between right and left was obsolete.  Still, national politics meant little to him:  about as much as paper airplanes would mean to the survivor of a plane crash.

Recommended books: Stalemate by Icchokas Meras, Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, and The Dream Room by Marcel Möring.
Rating: ****