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The Discovery of Heaven

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  7,345 ratings  ·  334 reviews
The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch's magnum opus, is a rich mosaic of twentieth-century trauma in which many themesfriendship, loyalty, family, art, technology, religion, fate, good, and evilsuffuse 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 to ...more
Paperback, 730 pages
Published November 1st 1997 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1992)
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An ambitious book. Intending to cover EVERYTHING. So the main characters are all polymaths, well-read but otherwise shallow, symbols really. And they're male too. Oh, there are females characters, but they conceive and then get felled by a lightning-struck tree; or they sneak in a younger man's bedroom and then leave in the morning without speaking. Although, in gender-fairness, a male can be sitting, about to uncover the secret to the universe, and a meteorite comes out of the sky and pulverize ...more
I wish there was some way I could get all the time I invested in this ridiculous masturbation-session of a novel back. Wasted almost two weeks of my summer attempting to wade through this self-aggrandizing mess of a "story" and am so annoyed. There are few books I start and fail to finish, but this book tested my limits like none before. I made it through about 500 pages before realizing that the story wasn't building up to ANYTHING, and that there were entire chapters that were simply vehicles ...more
Het enige voordeel dat het boek heeft, is dat het snel uitgelezen is. Maar mocht die stapel papier veroorzaakt zijn door een andere schrijver dan Mulisch in een ander taalgebied dat het onze, er zou niets meer van overblijven.

Gekunsteld, hoogdravend, houterig, breedsprakerig, betweterig, Magnum Opus my ass. De arrogantie van Mulisch (”kijk eens hoe veel ik weet! zie eens hoe handig ik een filosofische roman met een psychologische roman met een sleutelroman met een avonturenroman verweef! 65 hoo
Michael Hall
No mere summary could cover the depths to be found within this novel. Trying to summarize it would not give justice to it's brilliance and complexity. It is not a book to be taken lightly as it requires time to be set aside for it. You will need to want to be challenged as well as entertained before beginning this book. At only 730 pages it still took me three weeks and some odd days to read. Not because it was slow and boring, but because it often distracted me enough to put the book down in or ...more
What a magnificent book! Despite the hubris of Mulisch in incorporating large swatches of his autobiography into the fabric of this literary counterpane, he uses those elements well to contribute to the coherent pattern of the work. This is a novel of ideas, which is also an engaging narrative filled with humor. For those readers willing to work their way through the 730 pages, the reward will be worth the time spent, and the time spent will be the reward. The book provides devastating criticism ...more
Before starting this review, I went back and looked at what other books I’ve dismissed with a single star. Very few, it turns out. I’m reluctant to be so disparaging unless the book has been deeply unpleasant to read and I wish that I had not had the experience of reading it. So, yes, that’s right, Twilight gets two stars and this gets one. Isn’t that a statement?

I had high expectations. I was thrilled to find that the previous reader of my copy had left a Dutch train ticket (Middelburg to Amste
Sep 27, 2009 Patrick rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by:
Shelves: bookgroup
I briefly toyed with giving this two stars, given the degree of difficulty Mulisch takes on in this tome. I settled on 1 star because the book pissed me off in so many ways. There were the glaring errors begging for a decent editor (e.g., the claim that 60 million Jews were killed in WWII, which appears in multiple editions). There was the didactic, pedantic explanation of basic science concepts, including those peripheral to the story. There was the stasis in which the characters were frozen fo ...more
730 pages of time that I will never have back.

Not only was the book pretentious, it was also poorly written. Perhaps the translation is to blame, as I read it in English. Whatever the source, the (English) text was choppy, un-inventive, repetitive, and cliché. Mulisch's overuse of similes is nauseating.

The dialogue was also suspect. Instead of realistic, it seemed more the types of smart retort one thinks of only after an argument has concluded.

I'm at a loss as to what other reviewers see in thi
Ja, Jezus, wat moet ik hier nou weer over vertellen?

Het is een groot werk, zowel in narratief volume (901 pagina's in mijn editie) als in inhoud. Het gaat over heel veel dingen, en dat vind ik fijn. Ik kan over veel van die dingen inmiddels iets zeggen en van sommige juist helemaal niets. Het geeft genoeg stof om over te mijmeren. Wat deze stof precies behelst, zal ik hier niet noemen.

Wel kan ik de lezer van dit tekstje vertellen dat het een werkelijk breinboek is. Het gaat met name om ideeën. Z
I have not read this im sorry I didn't mean to rate this help
Wolfe Tone
Massively overrated. A decent book, but it fails miserably at what it aims to do: be a major philosophical, historical and literary work. It's quasi-intellectualism probably speaks to many people who know a little about philosophy, history and art, but not too much. They can hold Mulisch in awe all they want, but that doesn't change the fact that this book is actually much more shallow than people think it is.

All the name-dropping, the forced plot-twists and cardboard characters, the overly obv
May 12, 2008 Bartholomew rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pat Byrnes
Wonderfully philosophical. Probing and intelligent, this novel is difficult to be categorised to a specific genre... none seem to be able to adequately contain this novel. We travel from Amsterdam to Cuba, from the 60s to the 90s and from Atheism to Roman Catholicism to Judaism, via Palladio! It's a massive read and kept me busy for a long time - not helped by the fact that life got in the way... Read this book and prepare to live a little.

Stephen Durrant
A poll of Dutch readers taken in 2007 resulted in this being selected as "the greatest Dutch-language novel ever." I can see why. It is a brilliant and engaging work. The frame is,to say the least, cosmic in scope. A group of divine beings decide to send a new "spark" into mortality on a special mission. The problem, the divines feel, is that the emergence of the scientific method and the resulting explosion in human knowledge actually threatens their superiority. Moreover, there is so much abou ...more
Mar 13, 2013 David is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Ask a Dutch classmate for a book recommendation and this is what you get (in a sample of three independently solicited opinions, this was the result in all three cases). So we know that there is a degree of unanimity among the Dutch when it comes to the books one should have read.

I have a harder time believing that my each of my three classmates had actually read this book when they made the recommendation. It's not terrible so far, but it is a bit heavy-handed. Kind of a Dutch version of Iris M
Jun 22, 2007 Lily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary folk
I'll be the first to admit that I didn't understand a lot of the metaphysical aspects of this book. It was recommended to me by a dutch dude that was staying at the same campground in Italy as I was. He said it was the most famous book in Holland. From what I remember, it starts with the relationship between two friends as they vie for the same woman. The woman gets pregnant by one man, and the other raises the child as his own. The undercurrent of this story is the fact that the family of one o ...more
Lucian McMahon
Cerebral, elaborate, profound, a book that will preoccupy my mind for some time. Mulisch masterfully blends together philosophy, theology, and history in a narrative compelling both for its metaphysical and its human dimensions.

Feel free to disagree with the following (I'm just spitting out some of the things I thought during and after).

I get the impression that the book chronicles a conflict between modernity and postmodernity. It almost seems a convoluted blending of a modernist response to po
This novel does very well in the first three parts to entertain, inform, and dazzle with lucid details and lively dialogue, then fantastically derails in part four. The character of Quinten Quist (completely uninteresting precisely because he is so exaggerated and supernatural) hijacks the novel, steering it into a mess of biblical cryptography and architectural fetishism. The last few hundred pages could have been any Dan Brown novel, except they were much more painful to read for having the as ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Coughenour
A big fat metaphysical mash-up by the Dutch author of The Assault. Mulisch builds his fantastic tale on the erotic and intellectual entanglements of a menage á trois, enriching the plot of an unabashed thriller with a dazzling array of speculation on everything from mathematics, physics and linguistics to theology and the machinations of the heavenly host.

Next to its spectacular, soaring architecture, The Da Vinci Code is a mouse turd.

Ross Perchonok
I didnt finish about 100 pages in and just couldnt subject myself any longer.Maybe if I was smarter or more well read but it was just too damn tedious for this simple soul.Bring on Dostoyevsky, The Dalai Lama, how 'bout some Kant or Nietzsche?!?! Sorry Mr. Mulisch, too literary for me.
Harry Mulisch, I could really care less about all the pretentious bull you think you know, the least you could have done is written and interesting story.
Rowland Bismark
This is the english version of my review:

Onno, an amateur philologist obsessed by the Phaistos Disk, comes from one of the Netherland's leading political families. Max, a womanising radio astronomer, is the son of a collaborator who was executed after the Second World War. An unlikely pair brought together by chance — or angelic intervention — they immediately strike up a firm friendship. When Max meets Ada, a cellist, she is not just one of his usual girlfriends, but it is Onno who ends up marr
Jaren geleden las ik dit boek al, en toen vond ik het best goed en onderhoudend. Nu heb ik het herlezen, en verdorie, nu vind ik het gewoon GEWELDIG en misschien wel Mulisch' allerbeste. Nu begrijp ik pas waarom veel mensen dit Mulisch' magnum opus vinden. Het boek is nu voor mij veel rijker dan de eerste keer, misschien omdat ik inmiddels een hele kilo Mulisch gelezen heb en hem dus beter snap. Ik heb die eerste keer echt allerlei dingen niet meegekregen die ik nu wel meekreeg. Daarnaast had ik ...more
Ik twijfel tussen 2 en 3 sterren. Het verhaal zelf is ok, maar boeit enkel echt in het eerste en het laatste deel. Vooral de relatie tussen Max en Onno in het eerste deel was aangenaam en boeiend. Het einde lijk gerusht en is een grote anticlimax. Het meta-verhaal (in de hemel) is niet goed en de interacties tussen de personages in het meta-verhaal zijn slecht en ongeloofwaardig. Dat het verhaal voor een deel afspeelt in de hemel, zorgt ook voor een vervelende Deus Ex Machina neiging in het verh ...more
Absolutely phenomenal book... was given to me as a gift when I was living in Amsterdam and could not put it down...
Should have the subtitle, 'An Introduction to Almost Everything', as you will find yourself with a hell of a lot of new interests, in Philosophy, Astronomy, Music, even lock picking... the list is endless. Rather than forcing these subjects into the story to impress upon the reader, that Mulisch is a polymath, they are beautifully woven in to an incredible story that will one day ta
David Ranney
"Eternity and perspective are incompatible. Shall I tell you something, Dutch Max? Perspective was discovered in the fifteenth century. Up till then God had always fitted very naturally into the space of the painting, a Madonna and child for example, but that space itself was unnatural. He simply sat on a throne in the blue sky, above the Madonna, with some circles and stars around him; or on the left you had St. Dionysius wearing an elegant mitre in a dungeon and on the right later after his h
Zeker een aanrader om te lezen. Ja, de schrijver is overduidelijk een man en hij heeft het iets te vaak over 'haar kleine borsten' of 'zij spreidde haar benen' (om cello te spelen) op zo'n vieze toon als alleen een man kan schrijven. Maar als je daar eenmaal voorbij bent, ontvouwt zich een erg mooi en meeslepend verhaal. Het is eigenlijk een soortement van Dan Brown maar dan niet zo haastig in 24 uur gepropt en met wat meer filosofische rambles er bij. Ik denk dat ik nu wel weet van wie Langdon ...more
Het is bijna onmogelijk om over dit briljante boek een leesverslag te maken zonder verklappers. Dat heb ik dus niet eens geprobeerd. Een uitgebreid leesverslag mét verklappers kun je vinden op mijn blog:
Angespornt durch den Film mit Stephen Fry als Onno kaufte ich mir dieses Buch und meine Erwartungen wurden noch übertroffen. Im Rückblick ist der Film eine lahme Geschichte, verglichen mit der Fülle des Buches.
Sicherlich habe ich längst nicht alle Ebenen des Buches ergründen können, erst jetzt habe ich z.B. erfahren, dass Mulisch wohl seine Autobiographie darin verarbeitet hat. Ich werde es also noch mehrmals lesen müssen, was mir eine Freude sein wird.

Die Freundschaft zwischen Onno und Max, ih
Soesja Schelling
3.5 stars

Ooh my, I can't believe I actually finished this!! It feels like a huge accomplishment, haha! And I even ended up kinda liking it. I started reading because, well, my parents kinda forced me to and I was curious. I thought it was tiring at first but now, I like that I read it. I'm gonna lay out some things I liked and disliked about this book.

- I liked that in the end, all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. There are no loose strings or unfinished story lines. Everything is do
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Harry Kurt Victor Mulisch along with W.F. Hermans and Gerard Reve, is considered one of the "Great Three" of Dutch postwar literature. He has written novels, plays, essays, poems, and philosophical reflections.

Mulisch was born in Haarlem and has lived in Amsterdam since 1958, following the death of his father in 1957. Mulisch's father was from Austria-Hungary and emigrated to the Netherlands after
More about Harry Mulisch...

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“That question is too good to spoil with an answer.” 22 likes
“All human beings were of course unique, and they only discovered that when someone else fell in love with them or when no one ever fell in love with them.” 18 likes
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