Stephen Durrant's Reviews > The Discovery of Heaven

The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Sep 04, 2011

it was amazing
Read in August, 2011

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 about human beings that both frightens and appalls them that they decide something must simply be done! So you have operating in this novel, a very literal deus ex machina. In fact, when one particular character needs to be removed from the scene, he is simply struck by a meteor, becoming only the second person in human history to suffer this fate! One almost suspects, when such a thing happens, that Mulisch is both playing with and making fun of the arbitrary and easy way some plots develop. Side-by-side with this cosmic drama is a very intimate tale of male friendship and the involvement of both of these men, Onno and Max, with an attractive woman named Ada. So successful is Mulisch's portrayal of these characters, at least for this reader, that I actually found myself awake in the middle of the night worrying about them! The novel is also filled with a wealth of themes and ideas, with the result that a few readers have criticized it for being "too intellectual." Normally I tire of egghead digressions, but for some reason I found most of these fascinating and stimulating. Max is an astronomer and he thinks a great deal about radio telescopes and how such ever more sophisticated apparatuses may enable us to peer through time to the Big Bang and beyond. Onno, his friend, is a brilliant linguist prone to postulate all sorts of linguistic theories and other theories as well, such as his idea that the reason certain people gain astounding political power is purely bodily (it sounds mad, until you read the rather convincing argument). In addition, the book concerns the holocaust and the painful issue of collaboration as well as containing a Dan Brown-like search for the tablets containing the Ten Commandments! In other words, it takes on a lot in its 700+ pages. Indeed, "The Discovery of Heaven" stands as a great monument to Harry Mulisch, who died in 2010 without ever winning the Nobel Prize many of his readers expected. Enough said: a moving and enjoyable read.
5 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Discovery of Heaven.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

03/06/2016 marked as: read

No comments have been added yet.