A few years ago, I was offered a book for my birthday : HHhH, a French novel on Operation Anthropoid, which took place during World War II and led to the death of a Nazi leader, Reinhard Heydrich.
I was taken aback when I saw it was featured on the New York Times’ list of the 100 notable books of 2012. I really had enjoyed the book as I had quite some interest for this period of History as a child and a teen.
Indeed, seeing a book you read is featured in this kind of list always make you smile. Knowing that this was translated from a foreign language even more.
But what is this book all about ? Here is an extract from Wikipedia :
HHhH is the debut novel of French author Laurent Binet. It recounts Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during World War II. It was awarded the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman.
The novel follows the history of the operation and the life of its protagonists – Heydrich and his assassins Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš. But is also interlaced with the author’s account of the process of researching and writing the book, his commentary about other literary and media treatments of the subject, and reflections about the extent to which the behavior of real people may of necessity be fictionalised in a historical novel.
And why this obscure title you might ask ?
The New York Times explains about Heydrich that : ” In some Nazi circles, he earned the nickname “HHhH,” “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich” — “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.”
This novel is quite gripping from the beginning to the end and I daresay that Laurent Binet’s first book really had me hooked. I hope this review will drive you to read it too.
Grade : 8 /10.
Edit : According to Wikipedia’s page on Laurent Binet, 200,000 books were sold in France, 40,000 in Spain and 12,000 in Czechoslovakia. The novel is being translated and sold in 25 countries. Quite a remarkable success.