Harry Mulisch

The Assault

In the ‘hunger winter’ of 1945 a communist resistance-group assassinates a chief inspector of police, Mr. Fake Ploeg. The body is found in front of the Steenwijk family’s house even though they had nothing to do with the murder. As an act of reprisal the parents and brother of the boy Anton are executed by the Germans. The house is burned down. Anton goes to live with the family of an aunt and uncle. Later, he studies Medicine in Amsterdam.

During a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956 he meets Fake Ploeg’s son. A heated discussion ensues in which the question arises as to who is responsible for the deaths of their respective fathers.

Anton has never understood why the body was put in front of their house. At the time it seemed an arbitrary act. Years later during a large anti-nuclear demonstration in 1981, he hears from a former neighbourhood girl the reason why. The question of guilt is not resolved by this.

Yet another question arises: the question as to whether human lives can be played off against each other.

A detective mystery crafted like a Greek tragedy, of a clarity and a profundity that make it exhilarating to the intellect.

Le Monde

Mr. Mulisch brings exceptional skill and imagination to his task […] You can hardly help being reminded of the clarity of Dutch paintings; characters are established with deft economy.

The New York Times Book Review


Harry Mulisch

Harry Mulisch (1927-2010) was born on July 29, 1927 in Haarlem to a Jewish mother and a half-German, half-Austrian father. After his parents divorced in 1937, he was raised by his father’s German housekeeper. The father was joint director of a banking firm which was a repository for stolen Jewish…

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De aanslag (1982). Fiction, 254 pages.


De Bezige Bij

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