Harry Mulisch


In Voorval an engineer of a skyscraper still being built says to a colleague: ‘I’m going out for a bit of fresh air’ taking the elevator to the 55th floor as he does so. A sudden gust of wind knocks him from the scaffolding. The engineer is not scared: ‘as long as you’re not dead, you’re alive’ and especially ‘he who falls, is free’.

As he is falling memories and insights he has gained, shoot through his mind. The memory of his school notebook in which he recorded his dreams makes him think of his wife who has gone to live on her own, about his daughter who has gone to America, about the heroin addicted whore who recently took him to her room. ‘A man alone is in danger’ it had occurred to him at the time.

There is a clear line of thought in his mind; floor by floor the accent is placed on episodes from his life characterized by loss and decay. His dreams, his marriage, his fatherhood, his career expectations have all taken a nose dive. Through a quirk of fate the engineer ends up being blown back into the 49th floor coming to rest on a pile of insulation material.

Mulisch is the master of bringing in multilayers of meaning and interpretation all of which paradoxically work on the surface of things as well.

Vrij Nederland

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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Voorval (1989). Fiction, 77 pages.


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