Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > HHhH

HHhH by Laurent Binet
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”This is what I think: inventing a character in order to understand historical facts is like fabricating evidence. Or rather, in the words of my brother-in-law, with whom I’ve discussed all this: It’s like planting false proof at a crime scene where the floor is already strewn with incriminating evidence.

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I don’t know how to describe him any other way except that he has a punchable face.

This is a book with a plot ensnared in the arduous process of conceiving a historical novel. Laurent Binet is writing about the assassination of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich and the men who killed him in Prague. Binet shares with us the concerns he has with taking too many liberties with what is known truth and what are his reasonable speculations. Was Heydrich riding in a forest green car or was it black? Does it matter?

His girlfriend Natacha reads the chapters as he writes them. She is involved in the process to call him to task whenever he breaks one of his own rules about writing historical fiction. ”When she reaches the second sentence, she exclaims: ‘What do you mean, “the blood rises to his cheeks and he feels his brain swell inside his skull”? You’re making it up!’”

He sheepishly deletes the line, but then later in the day he puts it back in because every other line he tries to replace it with lacks... precision. Oscar Wilde has that famous quote regarding this exact predicament: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

Of course, Binet doesn’t know exactly how Heydrich may have reacted to a piece of bad news, but he does know that, given what he has read about him, more than likely anger, dark consuming anger, is the only way that someone, especially as disturbed and self-absorbed as Heydrich, could react. He was picked on as a child. He was called ‘the goat’ due to his appearance and his awkward sounding voice. The anger against humanity could have begun there. The question is, did his childish tormentors create him or did they sense on some feral level that he was going to be the architect of something evil? No one could have guessed the magnitude of the holocaust that he was going to unleash. He acquired many more nicknames once he found his home in the Nazi party: ”the Hangman, the butcher, the Blond Beast, and---this one given by Adolf Hitler himself---the Man with the Iron heart.”

The Nazi party attracted the outcasts, the angry, the perverted, and the brilliantly demented. They were men who wanted to have power over people and dreamed up creative ways to hurt them, but even among them, Hitler had to look for a man cold and calloused enough to exterminate legions.

Reinhard Heydrich was the perfect man for the job.

I want to return for a moment to Binet’s struggles with speculating about Heydrich’s physical reaction to a particular piece of bad news. Nonfiction in many ways fails to tell the truth by the very process of stripping away all the elements that are not known. We know that things are discussed, but usually those dialogues are not recorded for posterity. A good writer will read everything he can find on a historical person he plans to use in a novel. She will read everything she can find about the period. He will read letters and diaries to glean bits and pieces of information that will lend more authenticity to his novel. She will know the type of pen that was in the hand of a letter writer or the shapes of stains on the walls of a prison cell or the color of frilly underwear a mistress wore for her German lover.

When a writer has done this much research, he knows instinctively (although still subjectively) how a historical figure will react to a situation. Reasonably accurate dialogue can be written, most assuredly better written than the original discussion. The point of historical fiction is to make people come alive more than what can be accomplished by staying strictly within the facts of what is known.

I do appreciate it when a fiction writer does not alter events known to be true. Though even that I can forgive if they notate those deviations in the forward.

 photo Heydrich20Car_zps55cm1onl.jpg
Was the car dark green or was it black?

Reinhard Heydrich is a man ripe for assassination. He is careless and frequently seen riding around Prague in a convertible car without bodyguards. The people who know him despise him, and the rest of the world would, too, if they knew what he was doing. ”Heydrich is well aware that everyone considers him the most dangerous man in the Reich, and it’s a source of vanity for him, but he also knows that if all the Nazi dignitaries court him so insistently, it is above all to try to weaken Himmler, his boss. Heydrich is an instrument for these men, not yet a rival. It’s true that in the devilish duo he forms with Himmler, he is thought to be the brains. (‘HHhH,’ they say in the SS: Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich---Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.’), but he is still only the right-hand man, the subordinate, the number two.”

He is dangerous because he is ambition twined with ruthlessness.

Binet will introduce us to the assassins. They are men from Czechoslovakia and Slovakia, who are willing to risk their lives parachuting back into enemy territory to kill a man responsible for so much misery. As he gets to know them, he becomes attached to them. He wants to save them. He wants to write their life after their acts of heroism. He could create a hidden door that will allow them to escape. He could change the circumstances and give them a chance to fight their way clear...but then that would be breaking the rules.

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Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, young men who proved too much for Heydrich.

I remember years ago H. W. Brands, who frequently shows up on the History Channel, was discussing the death of Lincoln. He must have been researching him for his Ulysses S. Grant biography, but one of the things that he talked about that really stuck with me was that he found himself tearing up as he wrote about the assassination of Lincoln. That event that he knew so well still inspired an emotional reaction in him that caught him by surprise. As writers, we would love to write a new ending, but of course, in the case of Lincoln, he couldn’t have died at a better time to insure his legacy.

This book was a constant struggle to write. Binet tries to adhere to his own self-imposed rules. He questions everything he has written. He wants to do it right. His perspective outside of the novel shifts. I can relate to that. I question my life all the time. Why do I do this? Why don’t I do that? Is what I write really worthwhile? Will someone see through the facade and ridicule me? Am I worthy of the subject?

”When I watch the news, when I read the paper, when I meet people, when I hang out with friends and acquaintances, when I see how each of us struggles, as best we can, through life’s absurd meanderings, I think that the world is ridiculous, moving, and cruel. The same is true of this book: the story is cruel, the protagonists are moving, and I am ridiculous. But I am in Prague.”

I am frequently ridiculous.

I want to close with one last quote from Binet about the responsibility that writers feel for those they leave in the shadows.

”Worn-out by my muddled efforts to salute these people, I tremble with guilt at the thought of all those hundreds, those thousands, whom I have allowed to die in anonymity. But I want to believe that people exist even if we don’t speak of them.”

Sometimes though, a writer can pluck a person, let’s say one who is buried in an unmarked grave with 33,771 other Jews in Kiev, and sheath him in flesh, pump blood into his veins, and free his tongue so he can tell a story left untold.

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Reading Progress

July 10, 2012 – Shelved
March 11, 2016 – Started Reading
March 11, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 13, 2016 – Finished Reading
May 4, 2016 – Shelved as: ww2

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


Mara "He is dangerous because he is ambition twined with ruthlessness."
Oh my gosh Jeffrey, what a wonderful review, AND I am so glad you read this book. I read it a couple years back now, and was obsessed with both its content and structure. The latter part is so difficult to describe (though you've done a great job of it), which left me constantly struggling to explain the book in hopes of inspiring others to read it, and pretty much failed.

It's a mediation on history, and on the act of recording history. I love your point about the living emotional reaction to events and characters of the past. For me, it's the tragic ending of Alan Turing's life-- I feel absurd for continually treating it as a fresh wound, but it simply can't beer helped.


message 2: by Helen (new)

Helen Incredible review, Jeffrey.


Jeffrey Keeten Mara wrote: ""He is dangerous because he is ambition twined with ruthlessness."
Oh my gosh Jeffrey, what a wonderful review, AND I am so glad you read this book. I read it a couple years back now, and was obses..."


This is one of those books that I finished reading and thought to myself alright that was great, but now how are you going to review it Keeten? I'm so relieved that you feel I did a good job. Certainly more people need to read this book. I remember the buzz about it when it came out. I have no idea how or why I never read it then, but I'm glad I didn't read it then because that would have been pre-GR. I love a reviewing challenge and this book fit the bill.

Alan Turing is such a brutally sad situation. I kept thinking that someone in power, one of those people that KNOW he saved the war would step forward and save him. Another time when I'm disappointed in humanity. For me all I have to do is hear the words Dunkirk and I tear up like a little school boy. If I ever have to defend the human race in a cosmic court of law that will be one of those moments that I present for our defense. An armada of boats launched from the size of a bathtub (ok probably bigger, but I'm taking literary liberties) on up to save their boys off that beach.

Thanks Mara! I'm not surprised that you've read this book!


Jeffrey Keeten Helen wrote: "Incredible review, Jeffrey."

I have a notation on the pad next to my computer to mention this book to you. I kept thinking about you and your wonderful book In the Land of Armadillos: Stories as I was reading it. If you haven't read it I think you would enjoy the struggles of a writer trying to write a "true" historical novel. Thanks Helen!


Louise This was a great book. Reading your review reminds me how outstanding and unique it was. Thank you.


message 6: by Matthias (new) - added it

Matthias Very powerful review Jeffrey! Your power over my to-read list is not of the dictatorial kind, but omnipresent nonetheless.
Is the writing process of the author an explicit part of the story on Heydrich or is that information from the introduction? Very interesting insights there!


Jeffrey Keeten Louise wrote: "This was a great book. Reading your review reminds me how outstanding and unique it was. Thank you."

Thanks Louise! I'm glad that I was able to recapture the book for you. This was an interesting review to write.


Jeffrey Keeten Matthias wrote: "Very powerful review Jeffrey! Your power over my to-read list is not of the dictatorial kind, but omnipresent nonetheless.
Is the writing process of the author an explicit part of the story on Heyd..."


That is what makes the book so interesting. The writer is inserted all through the book. He tells a part of the story and then he pauses and explains himself. It is fascinating.

Every time you add a book I've read to your TBR I feel my POWER GROW! wahaha! cough cough erhh! (refocused now) I'm glad I could lead you to a couple of good books. May the book force be with you Matthias! Thanks Matthias! I have little doubt this is a must read for you.


message 9: by Hayat (new) - added it

Hayat Brilliant and insightful review, Jeffrey! I just might give this book a try.


Jeffrey Keeten Hayat wrote: "Brilliant and insightful review, Jeffrey! I just might give this book a try."

It is really interesting. It took me about 50 pages to adjust to what he was doing. Once my brain synced with his style I really started to marvel. Thanks Hayat! I'm glad I'm putting this book back on some people's reading lists.


message 11: by Nita (new)

Nita Kohli An amazing review once again which has got me intrigued enough to read this book. The novel sounds great, so putting it in my TBR. I have to try this book!


Jeffrey Keeten Nita wrote: "An amazing review once again which has got me intrigued enough to read this book. The novel sounds great, so putting it in my TBR. I have to try this book!"

Thank you Nita! The structure of this novel is fascinating. The author teaches French literature which I also like about him. I hope you in enjoy it. Regardless you won't forget it.


message 13: by Hayat (new) - added it

Hayat Jeffrey wrote: "Hayat wrote: "Brilliant and insightful review, Jeffrey! I just might give this book a try."

It is really interesting. It took me about 50 pages to adjust to what he was doing. Once my brain synced..."


I usually avoid WWII and Nazi Germany topics but the premise and writing style of this book is too intriguing to dismiss and now I'm looking forward to trying something outside my usual genre thanks to you. :)


Jeffrey Keeten Hayat wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Hayat wrote: "Brilliant and insightful review, Jeffrey! I just might give this book a try."

It is really interesting. It took me about 50 pages to adjust to what he was doing. Once..."


I'm giving you an honorable bow. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Nazis might be the subject but the theme is much more interesting.


message 15: by Aliya (new)

Aliya This is bad


message 16: by Vessey (new) - added it

Vessey Oh Jeffrey, I don’t think it’s coincidence that I read your review now.

”Nonfiction in many ways fails to tell the truth by the very process of stripping away all the elements that are not known. The point of historical fiction is to make people come alive more than what can be accomplished by staying strictly within the facts of what is known.”

Check out what I just read in “Fugitive Pieces”. I think it expresses what you’re saying very well.

”We’re stuffed with famous men’s lives; soft with the habits of our own. The quest to discover another’s psyche, to absorb another’s motives as deeply as your own, is a lover’s quest. But the search for facts, for places, names, influential events, important conversations and correspondences, political circumstances - all this amounts to nothing if you can’t find the assumption your subject lives by.

Pretty great, right?

Did his childish tormentors create him or did they sense on some feral level that he was going to be the architect of something evil?”

I think no one can answer this question for sure, but I have always thought that those who attract more than the usual share of aggression are either those who are conspicuously cruel or conspicuously noble and good.

Regarding the former, at the thought of what is considered okay in our society, I shiver thinking to what lengths one goes in order to have the label put on him. People have too low standards and when those same people start condemning others for their cruelty, they don’t think that every tree starts with roots and they, despite being generally better people, have put the foundations of what they despise so much. As said, – again in “Fugitive Pieces” - "Though the contradictions of war seem sudden and simultaneous, history stalks before it strikes. Something tolerated soon becomes something good.” Often people tolerate - and even commend - cruelty and insensitivity, and remember that playing with fire is dangerous only when they have already managed to set on fire the whole house.

Regarding the latter, I think that the really tender and sensitive people get attacked because they represent something different and unattainable. Profundity and goodness are strengths and despite aggressors not possessing them, they know enough of them to fear them. I have read plenty of books and experienced plenty of things to be sure of this. Take for example all the uncharacteristically skilled – and sometimes even brilliant - people put to the torch in the past when ignorance was considered virtue. In “The Mists of Avalon” it’s said “People have always killed the wise”.

Okay. Enough talking. Jeffrey, thank you so much for this wonderful review full of passion and insights.


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "Oh Jeffrey, I don’t think it’s coincidence that I read your review now.

”Nonfiction in many ways fails to tell the truth by the very process of stripping away all the elements that are not known. ..."


Wonderful observations Vessey! I have a copy of Fugitive Pieces on the way. You've tempted me with so many great quotes from it that I simply have to read it.

A community at large puts a lot of effort into convincing others to conform to a generally accepted norm. Those that refuse or are incapable of conforming are tormented or ignored. I was bullied a lot in first and second grade. I was small and kind of weird. I didn't like people very much for a while, but I didn't grow up and decide to be the architect of a holocaust. :-) Things got a lot easier for me when I started to grow. I wasn't as easy to pick on.

In the United States educated people are looked on with a certain amount of suspicion. There is certainly a robust anti-intellectual movement in the US. It would be fascinating if it weren't so tragic. It is like the whole country is becoming a southern gothic novel. Thank goodness for GR so I can interact with those few dedicated readers who live in the US and with a much larger contingent abroad.

I thought this review might resonate with you given what you have been reading recently. Thanks.


Jeffrey Keeten Sabah wrote: "Wow, Jeffrey, a superb review. Heydrich, who I'm only familiar with because of the history channel is definitely one of those men who fascinate as much as they repel. I'm aware of the bullying he e..."

The interesting thing about RH is how everyone was afraid of him even those who out ranked him. As you mentioned he was very good at collecting information on people. He even opened his own brothel so that he could tape and record the sexual proclivities of his "friends" and fellow Nazis. The brothel also made financial sense given that it was profitable, but also because it saved him so much money due the fact that he was frequenting those establishments so much. As an owner the women had to take care of his needs for free.

I think it comes back to that combination of ambition and ruthlessness. I don't think even Hitler was safe as long as RH was alive. Eventually the little bastard would have wanted to be emperor of the Third Reich. Though they would never admit this publicly there were more than a few Nazis who breathed a sigh of relief when RH departed this world. He gives me the shudders.

Thanks Sabah! Those history channels are addictive, and so are books about history. I have more than enough to study for many lifetimes.


message 19: by Kara (new) - added it

Kara This articulates (one of) the major conundrums I face writing historical fiction despite the fact that my characters are not famous or infamous. Thanks for your superb review!


Jeffrey Keeten Kara wrote: "This articulates (one of) the major conundrums I face writing historical fiction despite the fact that my characters are not famous or infamous. Thanks for your superb review!"

I've been doing a lot of thinking about it as well so this book was timely for me to read. You are most welcome Kara! Good luck with the writing!


Julie I love this book. Part of me instinctively wished that other nonfiction/historical fiction (or something straddling the line between the two, as this was) could follow Binet's model, to give this intimate glimpse into the process of the research itself and the author behind the pen -- but then again, that would rob HHhH of its uniqueness.


Jeffrey Keeten Julie wrote: "I love this book. Part of me instinctively wished that other nonfiction/historical fiction (or something straddling the line between the two, as this was) could follow Binet's model, to give this i..."

I bet other books will try a similar method in the future. It is like writing two books at once. I find myself still thinking about it days later. The book will certainly have influence on my future writing.


message 23: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean What an incredible review Jeffrey! Thanks so much for reading and conveying your thoughts on a book which I would probably veer away from.


Jeffrey Keeten Jean wrote: "What an incredible review Jeffrey! Thanks so much for reading and conveying your thoughts on a book which I would probably veer away from."

Thank you Jean! This is an unusual book that deserves more readers.


sarahjkf One of the best reviews I've read in a long long time.
To try and explain the way this book tells this fascinating story is difficult but you nailed it.
Thank you.


Jeffrey Keeten sarahjkf wrote: "One of the best reviews I've read in a long long time.
To try and explain the way this book tells this fascinating story is difficult but you nailed it.
Thank you."


Thank you Sarahjkf! I was worried about pulling this review together, but it finally fell into place for me. I'm glad you liked it! You are most welcome.


Violet wells Great review, Jeffrey.


Jeffrey Keeten Violet wrote: "Great review, Jeffrey."

Thanks Violet! Reviews are always so much easier to write when the book is this fascinating.


Darwin8u This book was very interesting, but didn't hit as hard as Europe Central and the Kindly Ones (granted not much does), but it was still fascinating.


Jeffrey Keeten Darwin8u wrote: "This book was very interesting, but didn't hit as hard as Europe Central and the Kindly Ones (granted not much does), but it was still fascinating."

I have Europe Central and do intend to read it. I read a few hundred pages of Kindly Ones but set it aside because I found it repetitious which is the same complaint I have about Don Quixote. Like DQ I'm sure it is a great book and important, but repetitiousness is something I don't have much patience with. This book has 330 pages and the books you compared it to had 811 and 984, so yes I would agree that those books probably did hit harder...especially if you dropped one on your foot. :-) Of course what was most interesting to me about this book was how the writer inserted himself into the process. I guess it makes sense that I would like that because I generally insert myself into every review I write. There was a freshness to the approach that I liked with this book.


message 31: by Lizzy (last edited Sep 14, 2016 01:26PM) (new) - added it

Lizzy Once more you present us with a brilliant review, Jeffrey! I loved the idea of this book, and again you will make me add another book to my already exploding to-read list. Oh, from what I know of you, Jeff, you're rarely ridiculous. But one time or another, we all are. From reading your reviews, I would say you're sensible, insightful and a great writer. So, keep writing dear friend. L.


message 32: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Zibas So much fascinating information in your review. This isn't a book I would normally be interested in, but your review is very compelling, so I've added it to my mountainous to-read list.


Jeffrey Keeten Lizzy wrote: "Once more you present us with a brilliant review, Jeffrey! I loved the idea of this book, and again you will make me add another book to my already exploding to-read list. Oh, from what I know of y..."

Thank you Lizzy! I do know the hazards of the TBR ticking time bomb that is bulging at the seams. I think of this corpulent pile of books as Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's the Meaning of Life. One more thin paperback? KAPLOOEY!

Thank you also for the encouragement. I do hope to continue to have time to keep writing. This work thing is such a crimp in my reading and writing time.


Jeffrey Keeten Christine wrote: "So much fascinating information in your review. This isn't a book I would normally be interested in, but your review is very compelling, so I've added it to my mountainous to-read list."

We will have to compare book mountains sometime. My mailman hates me. Publishers, writers, and my own buying of books keeps him hauling more mail than he thinks he should have to for one household. The Post Office sends me a Christmas card every year. :-) Thanks Christine! This is a unique book not for the subject matter but for the style.


message 35: by Agnieszka (last edited Nov 09, 2016 05:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Agnieszka Great review , Jeffrey ! I've just read HHhH and am truly impressed how Binet handled it . Not only gave us fascinating account on assassination of Heydrich and at the same time his own dilemmas in the middle of writing . I think it really worked out well .


Jeffrey Keeten Agnieszka wrote: "Great review , Jeffrey ! I've just read HHhH and am truly impressed how Binet handled it . Not only gave us fascinating account on assassination of Heydrich and at the same time his own dilemmas ..."

An unusual book that worked SO WELL. I know the style will bother some, but I thought it was compelling. Thanks Agnieszka!


message 37: by Bloodorange (new)

Bloodorange Thank you for this fantastic review!


Jeffrey Keeten Bloodorange wrote: "Thank you for this fantastic review!"

You are most welcome Bloodorange! Thanks for reading it!


message 39: by Lizzy (new) - added it

Lizzy This seems really good, Jeffrey, although I would guess it is a hard read. Loved the quotes! Great review, thanks. L.


Jeffrey Keeten Lizzy wrote: "This seems really good, Jeffrey, although I would guess it is a hard read. Loved the quotes! Great review, thanks. L."

If a hayseed from Kansas like me can read it, you can read it! Thanks Lizzy! Very interesting concept for a book.


message 41: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Stellar review, Jeffrey!!! You've great humility, referring to yourself as a hayseed. It's not a new form of novel-writing, as it was exaggeratedly heralded to be. And it is very tedious at times. It is actually like watching a DVD, and listening to a 2nd audio track as the director explains his narrative decisions. Although I wouldn't mind reading Oscar Wilde's as he went along, Binet is just not in the same class.


Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Stellar review, Jeffrey!!! You've great humility, referring to yourself as a hayseed. It's not a new form of novel-writing, as it was exaggeratedly heralded to be. And it is very tedious at times. ..."

I'm not sure there is such a thing as a NEW form of anything especially when it comes to writing. Maybe someone will have a different take on something that feels new, but rarely does a Ulysses come along. I didn't find it tedious as you did though. I liked having the insight into his struggles to write the novel. If people like linear story lines this is not the book for them. I found it somewhat inspiring to see his insecurities and indecisions readily admitted. Comparing anyone to Oscar Wilde is a tough comparison. Even Oscar Wilde wasn't Oscar Wilde for very long. :-) Thanks Mike!


message 43: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl Kennedy Really thought you brought the novel to life noting the author's sometimes struggle to accomplish his writing goals. Thanks for your effort to capture this novel's uniqueness.


Jeffrey Keeten Cheryl wrote: "Really thought you brought the novel to life noting the author's sometimes struggle to accomplish his writing goals. Thanks for your effort to capture this novel's uniqueness."

Binet is experiementing with something new here. I thought it was a very clever attempt. Thanks Cheryl.


message 45: by Vessey (last edited Feb 25, 2018 08:14AM) (new) - added it

Vessey The Nazi party attracted the outcasts, the angry, the perverted, and the brilliantly demented. They were men who wanted to have power over people and dreamed up creative ways to hurt them

I have never understood the whole “I want to hurt others, because it makes me powerful. Having their lives at my disposal makes me a god” Just like hurting or killing someone is a choice you make, letting them live and doing good is to no lesser extent a choice. It still comes from you. You are still powerful. But in a way that creates and nourishes, not in a way that destroys. God is loved and cherished and considered a god for creating life, not for taking it away. The Bible doesn’t speak about how he destroyes worlds and how cool that makes him. It says quite the opposite. How proud he is of what he has done and how good it is.

The point of historical fiction is to make people come alive more than what can be accomplished by staying strictly within the facts of what is known.

You have nailed it. If it will be only about the raw, dry facts, we can all just re-read our text-books and watch documentaries over and over again. If there is no creativity, if there is no authorial voice behind it all, what is the point for one to write a historical novel? The thing is that when the author puts his mind into re-creating the small details we don’t know or altering them slightly, when he really does novelize the events he writes about, he makes it all seem more real, puts more flesh on the bones of the people he writes about and makes us more invested and it is easier for us to respond. It is not just about the information. The point of keeping in touch with history is to learn from it and to hounour those who have have fallen victims to it. It is easier for everything that happened to sink in when we are touched. And this is what the novel does. It touches us in a way that a dry, factual historical text cannot do. The novelist gives it this much necessary intimate touch. :)

I question my life all the time. Why do I do this? Why don’t I do that?

Me too. Every time I’m doing something I consider worthwhile, I think of everything I don’t get to do because of it and how sad it is that one thing is always at the expense of another, that we can’t be everything and do everything. As you said, the more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Thank you so much for this beautiful, powerful and insightful review. I was happy to read it again :)


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "The Nazi party attracted the outcasts, the angry, the perverted, and the brilliantly demented. They were men who wanted to have power over people and dreamed up creative ways to hurt them

I have n..."


Reveling in the hurting of others is certainly a part of human nature. I think many people feel unempowered and vulnerable themselves so when they get a chance to have power over someone else they find they really, really like it. This can lead to even more deviant behavior. It is in all of us, just not activated in most of us. It is a scary human trait. Thanks Vessey!


message 47: by Hanneke (last edited Feb 26, 2018 06:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hanneke I thought this book was certainly an interesting endeavour, but I was often irritated by the overwhelming presence of Binet in the book. His little asides to you, the reader, could be silly here and there, like indeed his pondering on the colour of Heydrich's car or remarks if he should erase the previous sentence or not. Perhaps that shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. Heydrich was an utter bastard. Perhaps I felt he and his assassination should have been approached differently by Binet.


Jeffrey Keeten Hanneke wrote: "I thought this book was certainly an interesting endeavour, but I was often irritated by the overwhelming presence of Binet in the book. His little asides to you, the reader, could be silly here an..."

As mundane as it seems to be speculating about the color of a car that is the type of detail that a historian/novelist wants to get right. You don't want someone writing you from Bilboa, Spain or Duluth, Minnesota saying hey I have proof that car was red not black. It is just like when I write reviews, there are people who focus in on something I got wrong, usually something small, and that defines the whole review for them. The point of the book of course was to give people some idea of how Binet goes about writing a book. Though I understand how those things might have irritated you for me it was fascinating. I liked being put in the story, taken out of the story, and then shoved back in. It was a unique reading experience and for me, who has read a lot of books, it was actually fun to be kept slightly off kelter. I knew a lot of readers would be put off by the style of this book.


message 49: by Hanneke (last edited Feb 27, 2018 06:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hanneke I guess that I was just irritated by his aloof tone of voice. I happened to read the book when I just had visited Oradour sur Glane in France, a village destroyed and burnt to the ground by a group of SS people, all villagers killed, women and children locked up in the church and burned down. They left the village as it was after the destruction. So extremely chilling to see. There are pictures on wikipedia if you re interested. So Binet's account struck me in a wrong way, knowing that the same happened to a village near Prague in retaliation for Heydrich's assassination. Well, let's say I read the book at the wrong moment.


Jeffrey Keeten Hanneke wrote: "I guess that I was just irritated by his aloof tone of voice. I happened to read the book when I just had visited Oradour sur Glane in France, a village destroyed and burnt to the ground by a group..."

Maybe at the wrong moment or because of your personal experience you have a better, more realistic view of the book than I did when I read it. I didn't get an aloof tone, but maybe if I had been where you have been I would have felt the same way. For me reading bleeds so heavily into "real life" that books become wrapped up in my own personal history.


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