Wednesday, December 3, 2014

HHhH

HHhH is a postmodern novel by Laurent Binet, written in the confessional style of Michel Houellebecq about the weighty subject of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by the Czech Resistance. Binet takes us through Heydrich's early life, the scandal that got him tossed from the navy and those early rumours of non Aryan blood. The scene then switches to the Munich Agreement where France and England sold Czechoslovakia down the river, wartime Prague, and finally England where the SOE and MI6 are preparing a scheme to either kidnap or kill Heydrich in a manner that is alarming because it seems so unprofessional.
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HHhH isn't quite pure historical fiction because the author puts himself into the book in a way that I for one found to be very engaging. (Other people will be irritated.) We get an insight into Binet's life and why he came to be obsessed by Heydrich. And even if, like me, you know the story of Heydrich's assassination and the terrible reprisals that followed it, I think you'll like the way this narrative gets told. HHhH won the Prix Groncourt for best first novel (although its really more of a biography/history book) and it reminded me of another excellent novel I read and liked a few years ago, Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield, which is the (entirely fictional) tale of an assassination attempt which also turned into something of a debacle. 
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Incidentally, as I'm sure you're wondering, HHhH stands for H
immler's Hirn heisst Heydrich which means roughly "Himmler's brain who is called Heydrich."