Entry updated 2 November 2020. Tagged: Author.
(1927-2010) Dutch author, mainly influential at home (see Benelux) and abroad for his intensely ambitious scrutinies of World War Two, mostly couched as novels without any overt fantastic element, though Hoogste Tijd (1985; trans Adrienna Dixon as Last Call 1989) in the end plunges its crypto-Nazi protagonist into the cosmic abyss that climaxes Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), and Siegfried (2001; trans Paul Vincent 2003), whose eponym turns out to be the long-hidden child of Adolf Hitler, treats the Führer as a figure of preternatural vacancy (Horror in SF) whose absence of "beingness" profoundly mocks the Western World's pretensions to civilization, and makes disastrous nonsense of any attempts to understand him – and his deeds – in human terms. The earlier De toekomst van gisteren: Protokol van een schrijverij ["The Future of Yesterday: A Literary Sketch"] (1972) is less a novel than a book-length essay in which the author gives reasons for not in fact having written a projected novel of that title; had it been narrated rather than intimately described – that text would have been a Hitler Wins tale (see Alternate History), in which the 1944 death of the Führer would have released in victorious Germany a Eugenic primitivism responsible for the planetary decimation of those deemed "unfit".
Mulisch is best-known, however, for De ontdekking van de hemel (1992; trans Paul Vincent as The Discovery of Heaven 1996), a sometimes overpoweringly ambitious Equipoisal fantasy of Cosmology in which the unforgivable and unanswerable "anus mundi" that Auschwitz represents (see Icons) spurs the gods – who may be hiding behind a Star forty light years away – into abandoning Homo sapiens. The angel they have caused to occupy human form is effectively charged to recover the Mosaic Tablets of the Law and – in scenes that eerily evoke John Crowley's Aegypt sequence (1987-2007) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) – he succeeds, the tablets dissolve, as does the covenant with Heaven, and we are left to the amnesiac vacancy of a world that instantly fails to remember its damnation. This novel was filmed as The Discovery of Heaven (2001), directed by Jeroen Krabbé. In the Near-Future De Procedure (1998; trans Paul Vincent as The Procedure 2001), a Scientist replicates God's work by creating life, an "eobiont" that resembles the Golem (some scenes are set in medieval Prague). [JC]
born Haarlem, The Netherlands: 29 July 1927
died Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 30 October 2010
works (highly selected)
- De toekomst van gisteren: Protokol van een schrijverij ["The Future of Yesterday: A Literary Sketch"] (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: De Bezig Bij, 1972) [fiction/nonfiction: hb/]
- Hoogste Tijd ["Last Call"] (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: De Bezig Bij, 1985) [hb/]
- Last Call (New York: Viking, 1989) [trans by Adrienne Dixon of the above: hb/]
- De ontdekking van de hemel (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: De Bezig Bij, 1992) [hb/]
- The Discovery of Heaven (New York: The Viking Press, 1996) [trans by Paul Vincent of the above: hb/Martin Ogolter]
- De Procedure (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: De Bezig Bij, 1998) [hb/]
- The Procedure (New York: Viking, 2001) [trans by Paul Vincent of the above: hb/Doyle Partners]
- Siegfried (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: De Bezig Bij, 2001) [hb/]
- Siegfried (New York: Viking, 2003) [trans by Paul Vincent of the above: hb/from Heinrich Hoffmann]
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