The sequel to The Discovery of Heaven: a book about creation, human pride and failure
Anyone who reads Harry Mulisch must have a penchant for deciphering codes, tracking down clues, and unravelling enigmas. In the very first paragraph the reader is warned that if he’s sitting back expecting instant entertainment, he would do better to lay the book aside. This warning will not daunt the true reader who will be rewarded, for as always Mulisch’s literary alchemy retains its fascination right to the last page. Ancient myths, historical fact, literary heroes, and biological and chemical discoveries are the components of a compelling plot; they are combined and interlinked to form a new entity, a new creation.
This is what De procedure is all about: creating life out of dead matter, something which Victor Werker, the main character in the book, ultimately succeeds in doing, in defiance of all the laws of nature. The microbiologist manages to produce a living organism out of clay crystals. It is an earth-shattering discovery, the consequences of which he cannot fully appreciate. His chemical creation brings him fame, and from then on he travels ceaselessly all over the world, from one conference to another. But he must face the fact that the high point of his career is already behind him. Moreover, his private life is little more than a ruin. His wife Clara left him after the delivery of their stillborn daughter, when he panicked and fled the hospital room, unable to stand by her at this crucial moment. At a stroke, he lost both wife and child.
A large portion of the book is in the form of letters from Victor Werker to the daughter he never had. He sends them to his ex-wife in the hope of winning her back. The letters reflect his inner restlessness, his search for an anchor in his life, and his inability to come to terms with the past. The ending is worthy of a thriller. The murder of Victor Werker is as unexpected as it is inevitable: by doing away with the boundary between death and life, he has sent mankind to its doom.