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Harry Mulisch
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Harry MULISCH
Nationality: Netherlands
Born: 29 July 1927
Died: 30 October 2010
Awards: Anne Frank Prize (1957)
Athos Prize (1961)
P.C. Hooft Prize (1980)
Prijs van de Nederlands Letteren (1995)

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • Ik, Bubanik - novella, 1947
  • Archibald Strohalm - novel, 1952
  • Chantage op het leven - novellas, 1953
  • De diamant: Een voorbeeldige geschiedenis - novel, 1954
  • Het zwarte licht - novel, 1956
  • De versierde mens - novellas, 1957
  • Manifesten - aphorisms, 1958
  • The Stone Bridal Bed - novel, 1959 (Het stenen bruidsbed, trans. Adrienne Dixon, 1962)
  • Voer voor psychologen - autobiographical, 1961
  • Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann - reportage, 1962 (De zaak 40/61. Een reportage, trans. Robert Naborn, 2005)
  • Bericht aan de rattenkoning - novel, 1966
  • Het woord bij de daad: Getuigenis van de revolutie op Cuba. - reportage, 1968
  • De verteller - novel, 1970
  • Paralipomena orphica - autobiographical, 1970
  • Oidipous Oidipous: Naar Sofokles. Gevolgd door een vertaling van 88 profetieën en de fragmenten over Armenië van Leonardo da Vinci - novel, 1972
  • De toekomst van gisteren - essay/fiction, 1972
  • Het seksuele bolwerk - biographical, 1973
  • De vogels: Drie balladen - poetry, 1974
  • Two Women - novel, 1975 (Twee vrouwen, trans. Els Early, 1980)
  • De grens - novella, 1976
  • What Poetry Is - poetry, 1978 (Wat poŽzie is: Een leerdicht, trans. Claire Nicolas White, 1982)
  • De compositie van de wereld - essays, 1980
  • Opus Gran - poetry, 1982
  • The Assault - novel, 1982 (De aanslag, trans. Claire Nicolas White, 1985)
  • Egyptisch - poetry, 1983
  • Het boek - novel, 1984
  • Last Call - novel, 1985 (Hoogste tijd, trans. Adrienne Dixon, 1987)
  • De pupil - novella, 1987
  • De elementen - novel, 1988
  • De zuilen van Hercules - essays, 1990
  • The Discovery of Heaven - novel, 1992 (De ontdekking van de hemel, trans. Paul Vincent, 1996)
  • Het zevende land - essays, 1998
  • The Procedure - novel, 1998 (De procedure, trans. Paul Vincent, 2001)
  • Het theater, de brief en de waarheid - novel, 2000
  • Siegfried - novel, 2001 (Siegfried, trans. Paul Vincent, 2003)
Please note that this bibliography is not even close to being complete. For a more extensive listing of Mulisch's works, please refer to this bibliography.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Harry Mulisch:

  • "An over-fluent writer, Mulischís work is aggressive, provocative, and often maddeningly fantastic. An impression of this can be gained simply from titles and details. (...) Mulischís extravagance elicits an equal extravagance in his eulogists and critics. But perhaps he is not wholly to blame. His verve, his abundant talent cry out for a wider audience than he is likely to find in the Dutch-speaking world, and given that audience, its higher standards and more stringent criticism, he might discard his less mature quirks and poses and a seeming compulsion to impress by exhibitionist stratagems." - James Brockway, The London Magazine (10/1961)

  • "Mulisch is a rarity for these times -- an instinctively psychological novelist" - John Updike, The New Yorker (24/7/1989)

  • "Harry Mulisch belongs to the first rank of Dutch novelists of his generation." - J.M.Coetzee, The New York Review of Books (6/3/1997)

  • "Mulisch ist ein Autor, der seine stupende Intelligenz verbergen muß. Das gelingt selbst ihm nicht völlig." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (20/3/1999)

  • "Mulisch's manner is urbane, sanguine, epicurean. (He appreciates good food and wine.) But it somehow seems appropriate in the light of what he has in his lifetime seen, and continues to see, that the writers he reveres most are Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Kafka. For all the ease of living that his Amsterdam exudes, theirs, one feels, are the landscapes his mind inhabits." - Paul Binding, The Spectator (27/3/1999)

  • "A continuing pleasure of Mulisch's work, ranging from sharp, short novels such as The Assault to the splendidly achieved philosophical tome The Discovery of Heaven (...), remains his fusion of cultivated rumination and close attention to daily detail." - Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer (19/10/2003)

  • "Harry Mulisch is an important writer who stands at the heart of European history and thought, remaking tradition and inviting a rethinking of conventional judgements. He is also a fine storyteller. What are the Immortals of the Swedish Academy waiting for ?" - Joseph Farrell, Times Literary Supplement (28/11/2003)

  • "To quantify literary fame more accurately, one could ask how many people in Britain have heard of Harry Mulisch, a remarkable and truly distinguished writer whose stature puts him within sniffing distance of the Nobel Prize. Mulischís best work, The Discovery of Heaven, is a massive, sprawling and thoroughly engrossing tale of chance and fate that bears comparison with Georges Perecís Life: A User's Manual. Mulisch is a novelist of ideas -- which perhaps accounts for his relative lack of recognition in Britain." - Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday (30/11/2003)

  • "Mulisch is a poser and elaborator of mysteries of the very first European rank." - Julian Evans, Sunday Telegraph (14/12/2003)

  • "Mulisch desires the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the chief beneficiary of such an award would not be the Dutchman, but his readers, who would receive more of his incomparable work in translation were the Prize bestowed upon him." - Jason Picone, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring/2004)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Consistently powerful writing
  • Tackles tough and complex themes and moral issues and never settles for easy answers
  • A born storyteller, effortlessly weaving his tales
  • Handles a wide variety of genres, and is willing to try anything
  • Has a sense of humour

    Cons:
  • Only a smattering of the output available in English
  • Some critics consider his work too strongly coloured by his arrogance
  • Takes himself very seriously
  • Much of the work autobiographical, with details reappearing in different guises
  • Breadth and complexity of work can be intimidating

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the complete review's Opinion

     The prolific Dutch author Harry Mulisch is unquestionably among the leading authors of the second half of the twentieth century. While he did not have an international success early in his career comparable to Grass' The Tin Drum or García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude he has continued to impress over a career that now spans more than half a century, reaching new heights comparatively late in his writing life. With The Assault (and an Oscar-winning adaptation -- can't hit the big time without the movie tie-in these days, apparently) he finally reached a wider international audience. The magnum opus The Discovery of Heaven was finally the "big book" or summa that had long been hoped for. With the recent The Procedure he again impressed; its publication in the United States and England in the summer of 2001 should be one of the highlights of the publishing year.
     Readers limited to English are severely handicapped in properly appreciating Mulisch's varied talents. His noteworthy poetry certainly deserves to be translated. Much of his powerful non-fiction would undoubtedly also be of interest to an English-speaking audience. From his autobiographically-coloured Wilhelm Reich study, Het seksuele bolwerk, to the disturbing account of a never completed project, De toekomst van gisteren, Mulisch has produced a number of modern classics that, as yet, remain untranslated. (The classic report on the Eichmann trial, De zaak 40/61, (a worthy companion piece to Hannah Arendt's), has finaly been translated (in 2005) as Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann.)
     Whether in his small novellas and stories or his comprehensive fictions Mulisch shows a willingness to explore. Stylistically always in command, he shapes his material at will -- almost invariably with impressive results. Particularly refreshing is his attitude towards morality: questions of it are almost always at the forefront of his work, but he never imposes easy answers, or gives the reader an easy way out. Mulisch is one of the few authors willing to admit to the true complexity of moral questions in our time, tackling them from a variety of points of view.
     Mulisch also has a wicked sense of humour (and, where necessary, irony) and there are also many playful scenes in his work: he is a serious author, but never deathly so. He knows that he is there to entertain.
     The authorial presence looms large in most of Mulisch's work -- but it is almost always welcome. He is a writer who must become better known.

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Links

Harry Mulisch
  • Profile at The Guardian
  • Official Harry Mulisch site -- this fancy and pointlessly elaborate site is a neat but frustrating (and, for many computer users, inaccessible) extravaganza -- an example of how easy it is to get carried away with cool Internet applications and thus limit the value of a site. Exemplary only as how not to do it. A grand (very grand) disappointment.
  • Useful Dutch reviews and summaries of some of his works
  • Harry Mulisch at Mars Hill Audio
  • Harry Mulisch at NLPVF
  • De Groene Amsterdammer article re. Mulisch's 70th birthday
  • Caricature by David Levine
Harry Mulisch's Books at the complete review: See also:
  • Index of other Author Pages at the complete review
  • Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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