Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Pan-Paper-Dem-Back-Ic: "The Assault" by Harry Mulisch

 Pan-Paper-Dem-Back-Ic: The Assault by Harry Mulisch, 1982 (Dutch) and 1985 (English translation), 9780394744209. Backdated to correct year.

This is one of many books at my parents place that I once read or never got back to. I think I took this back to WI in late 2019 or early 2020. Maybe mid-2020 when I went down to assist with doctor appointments. My mother's cousin grew up in the Netherlands during WWII and said that my grandfather's aid packages from Maryland to them were a Godsend. She also once said that Quislings (wrong country but I cannot her wording) would fall to the back of an army unit's marching line and shoot others in the back.

 My father once gave a short description of the novel to me. Since he read it I held it in high regard.

My recall of the story: Young Anton lives with his father and brother (sister?). There are four houses on their block and in front of one of the homes in 1945 a Dutch nazi is assassinated. Everyone knows a dead nazi in front of the house means everyone in the house will be murdered in retribution. The family of the neighboring house drags the body in front of Anton's home.

Anton spends his life dealing with the trauma of his murdering father and sister (brother?). He is taken in by relatives. He goes to school with the son of the dead nazi.He occassionally meets those old neighbors. As a teenager he one day he bikes several miles from his current home to visit his childhood home. 

Everyone is trying to pick up the pieces, rebuild, and either forget or cope with their wartime experiences. Anton is stuck on the event. Why did the neighbor pull the body right and not west? Did they have it out for us? Were they panicked?

End of the novel has a bit of a revelation in Anton's adulthood but it's no resolution for him.

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