Book - 2012
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HHhH: "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich", or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich". The most dangerous man in Hitler's cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the "Butcher of Prague." He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible--until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.

Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet's captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich's car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.

A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet's remarkable imagination, HHhH --an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman--is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.

HHhH is one of The New York Times' Notable Books of 2012.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780374169916
Branch Call Number: FIC BINET 2012
Characteristics: 327 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Taylor, Sam 1970-
Alternative Title: Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich


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Aug 11, 2019

This was a one-off pick-up. It was on display at Central, and it was between a fictional novel about the Troubles and this. I decided on this since the subject matter was intriguing to me. I wasn't quite sure what I had gotten myself into. I was expecting something close to historical fiction. Instead, I was immersed in nonfiction with liberal artistic license, all the while the author made their process of researching and writing part of the story. I wasn't totally crazy about that. It reminds me of some other forms of art, particularly in film. Decent story, some good research, a compelling portrait of three central characters, and a sense of the braintrust of Nazi Germany.

Sep 08, 2017

An excellent book about the assassination of Heydrich. Interesting style with the included musings of actual and possible events, the compassion for the characters, the critical views of earier works on the events. It keeps you reading and learning.

Jun 06, 2014

It sounded so good but I didn't like it. It has an odd writing style to it, the author calls it infranovel but I have no idea what that means. The story switches around from present day steam of consciousness type to a jumpy historical narrative. It was some kind of story of the story of him wanting to write a story about Heydrichs assassination and it didn't appeal.

Jan 28, 2013

So some pathetic excitement in my life: I've actually read something that's up for an award - National Book Critics Circle Awards 2012. The irony, of course, is that HHhH was published in French in 2009; it's the translation that is copyright 2012. I wonder how much of the award is for the author, and how much for the translator (a man from Nottingham named Sam Taylor who has written three novels of his own)?

This book is about Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SS, a chief creator of the "Final Solution", and terror of Prague, where he was eventually assassinated in 1942. I first heard of him when I was in elementary school, reading a simplified Scholastic version of William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which included a brief and rather sanitized description of what the Nazis did to the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia in reprisal after Heydrich's death. To put it simply, they killed everybody except a handful of kids who could pass for Aryans. They even shot the dogs before razing the place.

This story is also about Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, the Czech and the Slovak assigned to kill Heydrich. Apart from what Heydrich represented and the horrors he unleashed, according to Laurent Binet, the Czech government-in-exile needed a powerful act of resistance so that London would remember to revoke the Munich Agreement after the war.

To interweave the stories of the marksmen and their target, Binet writes -- not a novel exactly, but a series of impressions about writing a novel about Heydrich and Kubis and Gabčík. In 257 sort of blog posts, Binet veers from Heydrich's childhood and rise to power, to the choice of Gabčík and Kubiš for the suicide mission, from Babi Yar to a brutal and possibly mythical football match between Nazis and Ukranians, from whether Heydrich's Mercedes was black or dark green to which of the Czech families who aided Kubiš and Gabčík (the vast majority of whom were shot or gassed) will be sacrificed from the narrative for brevity's sake.

Does it work? Well, yes. It's a bit distracting at times, especially when Binet hauls us back into the present to stew over details, but the final third of the book as we hurtle toward the assassination and its horrific aftermath is engrossing -- and frankly getting jerked into the present is a relief.

Will it win the award? Heck, I don't know; I never read the latest books, so I have no idea what the competition is like. This book is worth reading though, whether it wins the award or not.

Oct 30, 2012

Excellent book translated from French on the killing of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during WWII. The author consistently breaks the fourth wall in his narrative which makes for an original and interesting take on an historical novel. Contains background on all the main characters leading up to the assassination. ( HHhH is acronym ( in German ) for Heydrich is Himmlers brain.)

Oct 11, 2012

Translated from the French. The story of the assassination of Heydrich, of the two parachutists who carry it out. A combination of reality and novel. Gripping and well written.

Oct 07, 2012

This novel is really more like a diary about the author's difficulty in writing fiction, and was really not what I expected it to be. I wanted to see and hear the story about the attack on Heydrich, not just hear the author complaining about how hard it is to do just that.

May 08, 2012

A thrilling and formally daring novel about the plan to assassinate the high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during the second world war, Laurent Binet's HHhH was a literary sensation when it was published in France in 2010, winning the coveted Prix Goncourt.


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May 08, 2012

Over 257 short chapters, HHhH recounts both the mission undertaken by Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis as they travel from France to Britain and then on to Prague and their fateful encounter with Heydrich, and also the mission undertaken by Binet as he tries to put together an accurate account of two men whom he admires so much but about whom he knows so little.


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