Friday, August 24, 2012

50 Book Pledge #16: Laurent Binet—HHhH: A Novel

If two things in this world have been done to death they are the WWII historical novel and glib, self-referential postmodernism that sidesteps narrative for telling the audience how hard it is to write a narrative. But by God, Laurent Binet managed to throw these things together and wind up with the best new book I've read in years. Binet's digressions, though routinely amusing and occasionally a bit grating, add to the overall effect of Binet's attempt to lionize the Czech and Slovak assassins who killed Reinhard Heydritch, possibly the most dangerous Nazi under Hitler and the true architect of the Holocaust. Binet manages to turn all of his story-interrupting tics into reflections of our continuing (possibly endless) quest to make sense of the horror of Nazi policy, and he also increases the tension of the stranger-than-fiction events he recounts with his interruptions and tics. Translated with terrific informality by Sam Taylor, HHhH is a fleet but unexpectedly powerful account of one of the few tales of WWII not covered to death, despite it being one of the most crucial events of the whole war.

My full review is up at Spectrum Culture.

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