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The Assault

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  11,476 ratings  ·  526 reviews
It is the winter of 1945, the last dark days of World War II in occupied Holland. A Nazi collaborator, infamous for his cruelty, is assassinated as he rides home on his bicycle. The Germans retaliate by burning down the home of an innocent family; only twelve-year-old Anton survives.

Based on actual events, The Assault traces the complex repercussions of this horrific incid
Paperback, First American Paperback Edition, 185 pages
Published March 1986 by Pantheon (first published December 1st 1982)
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James Several of his novels are available in English translation. Notably The Discovery of Heaven, but also The Procedure and Siegfried.
Julie I hate when that happens! I recently read a Syrian book called, "Cinnamon" the English translation of which has been out for years, but it is only lis…moreI hate when that happens! I recently read a Syrian book called, "Cinnamon" the English translation of which has been out for years, but it is only listed here in Arabic. GR should have a way to request the addition of a new translation of a book. (less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  11,476 ratings  ·  526 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenna by: Hanneke
I typically avoid historical fiction having anything to do with WWII (and that seems to be about the only HF written nowadays!) because they're usually too sentimental for my tastes, intent on maximizing tears and emotions more than stimulating thoughts and ideas. And these novels are rarely wrapped up without some predictable romance taking over the plot: German woman saves Jewish man. Falls in love. Allied soldier saves Jewish woman on the run. Falls in love. Woman nurses wounded soldier back ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
There’s a popular argument for the existence of God, which is that the world, as we see and experience it, is complexly ordered, and so someone must be responsible for this order. Which is nice and logical, of course, but, rightly or wrongly, when I look at the world I don’t see harmony, I see chaos, especially where humanity is concerned. When I think about human existence it strikes me as overwhelmingly random. Without exception, you’re thrown into a situation over which you have no control wh ...more
Stephen P
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stephen by: Jeff Bursey
Shelves: dutch
There is an immediacy that is heart rending as the Germans enter their home. Time in the present is excruciatingly fearful told through Mulisch’s pressurized details.

Rationed war time goods disappearing the family lives in bleakness. The war has ended but not yet in this Dutch land. In the middle of the deserted street, in front of Mr. Korteweg’s house lay a bicycle with its upended front wheel still turning…” Beside the bicycle is the corpse of a fascist sympathizer, a German policeman, shot an
This novel is constructed very simply.

It concerns an incident that occurs near Haarlem, in The Netherlands, during the Hunger Winter towards the end of WWII. The main character Anton Steenwyck, is a boy of twelve at the time of the incident.

The novel is divided into five episodes plus a prologue. The incident occurs in the first episode. Each subsequent episode takes place years after the original event and in each one Anton meets someone else who was involved with the incident and each meeting
Harry Mulisch was born in Haarlem, Netherlands and lived in Amsterdam from 1958 until his death in 2010. His father was from Austria-Hungary and emigrated to the Netherlands after the First World War. During the German occupation in World War II his father worked for a German bank, which also dealt with confiscated Jewish assets, while his mother, Alice Schwarz, was Jewish. Mulisch and his mother escaped transportation to a concentration camp thanks to Mulisch's father's collaboration with the N ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, reviewed, ebook

I loved the way Harry Mulisch set the first scene in the novel. Almost nothing seemed to herald what would happen next. Family gathered at the table, father reading treatise of Jewish philosopher Spinoza, mother unraveling an old sweater while older son is doing his homework. And there is a younger son yet, Anton. Picture like from these old Flemish masters. Calm and peaceful. Except for the six gun shots that suddenly break the silence of the night. And from that moment nothing would ever be th
"A man who has never been hungry may possess a more refined palate, but he has no idea what it means to eat."

I was required to read this for my literature class, and when I was reading the synopsis on the back I thought I was going to love it. Well I didn’t it.

Here’s the thing, I’ve read a couple of WW2 stories so I basically get the gist, but this was so boring.
Apart from the fact that the beginning was tediously long, I felt like there was no real resolution to the plot.

Anton, the main chara
All of us, I think, even if we don't have a deeply profound sense of the bittersweetness of life, carry something inside us that haunts us, and we carry those things and react to their presence according to our ability to process and place them into a healthy context -- though sometimes it is hard to quite know whether "healthy" is something genuine, arbitrary or just an artificial coping strategy. These lingering demons can include great regrets, an embarrassment or moment of public humiliation ...more
Gumble's Yard
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just before the end of WW2 in Haarlem, a Dutch police chief and Nazi collaborator is assassinated by the Resistance outside a set of four houses including the house of Anton, his brother Peter and their parents. The inhabitants of the house which the body falls outside drag it in front of Anton’s house, Peter goes out to try and drag it further but the police arrive and torch the house and then later Anton finds out (after spending the night in jail with a girl who seems connected in some way) s ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, history
Anton Steenwijk is 13 years old, when the German occupants murder his entire family in retribution for the killing of a Dutch collaborator in front of their house. Anton could escape and is taken by German soldiers to the home of his uncle in Amsterdam, where he grows up trying to forget about the past.

But these events haunt him and like a puzzle pieces of information let him understand what really happened back in 1945. These insights are closely coupled with critical periods in the history of
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the cover alone would have done the trick, genius cover. But actually I've read Siegfried by the author before and found it very interesting. Much like that book , The Assault also takes place during WWII or, technically, the main event of the story does, and the it takes decades to get to the bottom of it. Mulisch's life had been profoundly affected by WWII, which has informs his writing to a great degree. This novel according to The New York Times has made his reputation at home and a ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Re-read for the first time since 1997, when I'd first discovered this Dutch novel. I've just been reading Caroline Moorhead's books about the Nazi occupation of France and the French Resistance and felt suddenly drawn to augment that reading with another resistance story. (For this, too, is a story of resistance, albeit in occupied Holland, though one cannot know that by reading a brief description of the plot, and to explain further would reveal too much about the story, which contains a myster ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I rate on a scale of A to F and this to me was an A+++. It has special meaning to me because I read it on one of my very few trips abroad....from Indiana to Vienna Austria in August of 1999.
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-translation
A beautiful book of darkness and light, a book of how war marks a child and the rest of his life is spent coming to some kind of grips with the trauma and loss. Not in big bursts and frenzies most common in literature, but an acceptance through a quiet progression of incidents, a subdued awakening of memory, numbered tears and new life and threads that almost all come together but not quite. I knew I would love it when I read this:

Occasionally in the late twilight when his mother forgot to call
Seth Golbey
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-fiction, 2012
"He...stood with his back to the future and his face toward the past. Whenever he thought about time, which he did once in a while, he did not conceive of events as coming out of the future to move through the present into the past. Instead, they developed out of the past in the present on their way to an unknown future."

This is a book about memory and how a memory -- in this case the massacre of the Dutch protagonist's family by the Germans in the closing days of World War II -- shapes a life.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. Intelligent, well-crafted, gripping story, beautifully translated
Laura (bbliophile)
This was a bit better than I expected, but I still didn't like it. At all.
Randy Attwood
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't like to review books because I don't do it well. I don't do it well because I don't like to summarize plots or stories and I don't like to put myself in a position to criticize or castigate. And I hate the one- to five-star system.

I read because books create feelings inside me that resonate with me. And they cover so many so-called genres. I love action books. I love books that take me out of myself. I love books that take me into myself.

I've just finished Harry Mulisch's The Assault. Le
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This brilliant novel opens in the Dutch city of Haarlem in early 1945, during the Hongerwinter, the famine that afflicted millions of residents of the German-occupied western portion of the Netherlands due to a blockage of food and fuel by the Nazis. Anton Steenwijk, a 12 year old boy, and his parents and older brother were spending a quiet evening at home, huddled around a lantern to keep warm and trying to keep hunger out of their minds. Their peace was broken by the sound of nearby gunshots, ...more
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In postwar literature the horrors of Naziism tend to be painted in broad strokes. Writers like Gunter Grass and Heinrich Boll have created masterpieces in which they explore the larger implications and impact of National Socialism. In The Assault Harry Mulisch narrows it all down to a finer point; the impact of one event on the life of one man. In occupied Holland, just weeks before liberation, a Nazi collaborator is shot in front of 12 y/o Anton Steenwijk's house. The events that quickly follow ...more
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Things are not always as they seem, and each person's perceptions of reality are limited by circumstances. In this masterful and intriguing novel, the protagonist's perception of a traumatic event is altered over time by accidental encounters with other witnesses to the same event. The reader also learns how the event and individual perceptions thereof shape the destinies of those involved. The work poses a moral question, both to the characters and to the reader, which has far-reaching implicat ...more
Beautiful novel and typical for Mulisch, he once again is showing off his knowledge (he was a great writer, but a very idle man). It's an interesting story, but the characters are not fully developed, though. The central theme is about the divide between the truth and being right, and, of course, that is extremely relevant in a war setting!
Karlo Mikhail
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This year we would be celebrating the 68th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and its Axis allies during the Second World War. In this war the former Soviet Union, under the leadership of the Joseph Stalin, overcame great odds and delivered deathblows against the forces of fascism. While the Red Army pushed back the Blitzkrieg and caused a shift in the tides of war, patriotic forces in the occupied countries heroically took up armed resistance against the Nazi invaders. However, the role ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A gripping WWII novel, set in a war-torn Dutch town. After a A Nazi collaborator, is gunned down, while riding home on his bicycle, setting off repercussions, that resonate, with all the people involved, guilty and innocent, through the rest of their haunted lives. An excellent look at the ravages of war.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: real-war-fiction
I liked this book a whole lot more than All Quiet on the Western Front. I understand they are two different war novels (covering two different wars), one the story of a soldier, the other a victim of the war, but both are addressing the effect of war on, for lack of a better term, the human soul. I read these books so close together that it's hard for me to not draw comparisons between them, and that's what I'll do for this review.

First, the protagonist. I found Anton to be far more likable and
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, school-reads
Mulisch has a way of describing his character in the finest ways. We follow Anton Steenwijk, a boy who loses his family and survives the Second World War. The war leaves its scars and Anton carries the memories with him, finding it difficult to let go.
There's this quote in the book: 'A beginning never disappears, not even at the end.' I absolutely loved that quote. There are more quotes like that in the book and it gave the story so much more meaning and feeling.
Harry Mulisch did a wonderful jo
Jul 14, 2013 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Bettie by: Wanda
to find

5* result from Wandaful, .Karen., Ellinor
Josephine (biblioseph)
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Once again, this novel's magic lies in the author's handling of the narrator. Published in 1985, I have no idea why we didn't read this after reading all those heavy holocaust novels, perhaps because in this novel, there is no easy discussion in the classrooms. But because of the large room of thought this novel creates, I feel it is all the more important.

When I say The Assault is though-provoking, I am freely invoking that cliché. Perhaps you know how deeply personal The Assault was for me as
Julie Kasinski
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
There is something in this book that moved me to the core, but l stil cannot grasp what it really was.

Was it the events? Events we were told about in history classes so many times, that we've read about in so many books, and yet they still resonnate with the same coldness and tragedy.

Was is the format of this story? We follow the struggles of the main character through different episodes, in what seems to be the most important steps of his life. It made me feel like I was standing there, beside
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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 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 the

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