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The Discovery of Heaven

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  10,975 ratings  ·  506 reviews
The Discovery of Heaven begins with the meeting of Onno and Max, two complicated individuals whom fate has mysteriously and magically brought together, They share responsibility for the birth of a remarkable and radiant boy who embarks on a mandated quest that takes the reader all over Europe and to the land where all such quests begin and end. Abounding in philosophical, psycho ...more
Paperback, 730 pages
Published February 26th 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
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Elms It depends on how elaborate the reader's contextual knowledge is and his ability to make intertextual connections. But if you don't go, you'll never…moreIt depends on how elaborate the reader's contextual knowledge is and his ability to make intertextual connections. But if you don't go, you'll never know.(less)
Woutje Van Wiggen Origineel als in: hij is de eerste die het bedenkt; dan niet. Origineel als in: het is een zeer interessant concept waar niet veel mensen op komen;…moreOrigineel als in: hij is de eerste die het bedenkt; dan niet. Origineel als in: het is een zeer interessant concept waar niet veel mensen op komen; ja. Dit is echter enkel theoretisch, aangezien de 'historioscoop' met een snelheid vele malen sneller dan het licht zou moeten verplaatst worden naar een locatie op een paar lichtjaren afstand, om het zo theoretisch mogelijk te maken terug te kijken in de tijd. (less)

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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  10,975 ratings  ·  506 reviews

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Oct 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch
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
Jun 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translation
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
Michael Hall
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cinzia DuBois
Aug 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so I was incredibly excited to read this book. It's one of those books I've put off for a couple of years to 'savour' the excitement.

I began reading and was immediately disappointed with the contrived and forcefully formal dialectic and narrative in both the prologue between two overtly sexist angels and chapter one. I decided to try and round off these two factors (formality and sexism) as perhaps character traits which would blend into a narrative and become either criticised or mocked. N
Jul 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Oct 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
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 a
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Gumble's Yard
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, 2005

Long and extremely complex novel – very hard to categorise and incredibly wide-ranging and ambitious.

Womanising astronomer Max Delius (son of a Nazi collaborator who had his Jewish wife – Max’s mother – killed: note this is almost autobiographical as Mulisch had a Jewish maternal family killed in camps and a collaborator father) meets by chance with absent-minded linguist Onno Quist (son of an ex-Prime Minister) and the two strike up a deep almost exclusiv
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highlight of Dutch literature, but a bit uneven in quality. The first 400 pages are sublime, especially in the drawing of the love triangle Onno-Ada-Max. Every page is a gem, and the situation sketches sometimes are very ingenious.
But then the story falters: starting with the comatose state of Ada the suspense slips; the Bildungsroman that follows is quite readable, but the boring detective story with which the novel ends, is an anti climax. Just like Hugo Claus (the king of Flemish literatur
Mar 25, 2010 is currently reading it
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 versi
Stephen Durrant
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
When thinking about it now, i again feel the perplexity this book's ending evoked in me two days ago. What a story!
What i fell in love with immediately: the writing style, the beautiful words i didn't know yet and learned by looking them up, the wonderfully and creatively crafted sentences that described certain feelings, thoughts or situations that moved by heart and mind simultaneously, the interesting scientific and historical information that is abundantly sprinkled throughout the whol
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.

Feb 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
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.
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 22, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Oct 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst part is that I was really, really enjoying this book. It was well-translated and engaging despite all the pretentious banter (which usually steers me 100 million miles from any novel. Literary masturbation is not my style), but Mulisch's toxic attitudes toward women are painfully apparent almost immediately and do not cease.

I have a three strikes rule when it comes to misogyny in literature, and it only took about 70 pages (out of 500+) before this one went on my donation s
Rowland Pasaribu
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an inordinately long book (the print is very small, so the count of 730 pages is a bit misleading), and it took me an inordinately long time to read it. I'm in two minds about whether the effort was worth it.

In a frame story that takes the form of a conversation between two angels (we assume), one of them recounts how he was under orders to recover the "testimony" (which we discover is the pair of stones upon which Moses wrote the Ten Commandments at God's dictation). To this
Oct 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Coughenour
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: greatfiction
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
Mar 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Rick Slane
I read the English translation. The stories were unique and interesting but it would have been better 200 pages shorter.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Discovery of Heaven is a book which will shake up your brain, even after reading you feel like you’ve learnt a dozen things, unfortunately it makes it more difficult to actually summarise it as the plot is out there.

Superficially two angels shape the destiny of two brainy individuals (max is an Astronomer and Onno is a linguist) and together they both father (yes a woman has sex with both of them) a child who has been chosen to return the ten commandments back to heaven as the hu
Apr 12, 2017 added it
Shelves: dutch-fiction
When writing this, Harry Mulisch used his Umberto Eco-location.

But it's not just an Eco ripoff, even if I was so, so reminded of Foucault's Pendulum as I read, what with the meditations on the roles of Marxism and third-worldism in the postwar European intellectual formation, darksome descriptions of Catholic conspiracy, and so forth. Mulisch dives a bit more headfirst into the supernatural, even if that can get annoying at times – the maze in the middle was some lame-ass faux-Indian
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Didier Goossens
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have found the ten words. Well, truth be told, there are a few more to speak than ten. If after a week I still dread to write this, then that means those ten words signify to me the finding of The Book.

Ever so often, only a couple of times throughout wo/man's journey, one comes across The Book. In the fashion of Delius Max' style, it is the one Book that ends up on your shelf of 15 most influential ones, either periodically or permanently. This one will probably linger there foreve
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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 aft
“That question is too good to spoil with an answer.” 36 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.” 25 likes
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