- Paperback: 736 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (November 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140239375
- ISBN-13: 978-0140239379
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 59 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Discovery of Heaven Paperback – November 1, 1997
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About the Author
Harry Mulisch is author of the international bestsellers The Assault, The Discovery of Heaven, and The Procedure, as well as other novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, and philosophical works.
Paul Vincent lives in London and translated Harry Mulisch's previous two novels.
Top customer reviews
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I first encountered Mulisch's work with his earlier title The Procedure which examines the way that inanimate matter becomes living organisms by telling the stories of a modern day Dr. Frankenstein, Victor Werker, a Dutch biologist who creates a complex organic clay crystal that can reproduce and has a metabolism, and the late sixteenth century Rabbi Jehudah Löw of Prague who creates a golem by following the procedure outlined in a third-century cabalist text that God used to create Adam.
The Discovery of Heaven is a large novel of 730 pages that deals with God's relationship with the human race, predestination and free will, and the lives of two men, the woman they both love, and the child she conceives to fulfill a divine purpose. Translated from the Dutch by award-winning translator Paul Vincent, the book makes a smooth transition into English. I found it easy and compelling reading with a thought-provoking ending. While this is one of the most read and respected novels in The Netherlands, American readers are not always so enthusiastic. I believe that the philosophical and theological questions raised and the literary style that Mulisch uses to covey them may be difficult to translate, sort of like reading an English translation of the Chinese I Ching.
It has a story within a story construction that opens with two heavenly spirits talking to each other. One is telling the other how complex it was to bring together the right genetic profiles to produce the desired child who would be able to fulfill a mission from God. The story the spirit tells begins with astrophysicist Max Delius and philologist Onno Quist meeting, seemingly by chance, in The Hague in February 1967 when Max stops his car at midnight to pick up Onno who was hitchhiking to Amsterdam.
Their friendship forms the core of the book, which tells the story of first Max, and then Onno, falling in love with young cellist Ada Brons. From this love triangle, Ada produces a son Quinten, whose paternity is uncertain, but we watch as he grows to maturity and the fulfillment of his mission.
This is a story of how heavenly predestination looks like free will to the humans involved as the humans exercise their free will, and yet their situations are manipulated from heaven by a spirit with a mission to accomplish. What does God need from humans at the end of the 20th century? Read the book and find out one man's thoughts on this.
And then there are those who take The Discovery of Heaven ever so seriously. Does any reader sincerely contend that this book - metaphysically speaking, which I don't like to do - has brought them any closer to some extraterrestrial heaven? Answer: Yes, there seemingly are such readers, especially amongst the "professional" reviewers, and I do have to concur that Quenten's quest, attempting to execute the "SOMNIUM QUENTI," might, at first blush, seem a tad Dan Brownish towards the end. But please heed Onno's voice in all their conversations during these sections. It resembles nothing so much as an erudite man such as Mulisch teasing and debunking a charlatan such as Brown, only putting up with him because, in this case, Quenten is his son, in name anyway.
Of course, there is a downside to a book that is purely cerebrally ludic in nature; there are no emotional depths to the work or emotionally binding characters to ensorcell the reader and transcendently move him/her. But, perhaps, if the novel has a point, this is it: As Onno puts it, "No one did anything anymore; everybody simply talked about the way something ought to be done." Doesn't this sound familiar to the modern reader?
So, a very fun, pleasant, idyllic book with which to while away (in my case) a week's time, with very important ideas no doubt which I ought to take more seriously. But not even the angels do that!