Nazi gets a novel makeover
‘ Gabout war, which with itself.
HHhH tells the story of Operation Athropoid, a tactical operation in 1942 in which Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis were sent into occupied Czechoslovakia from their London exile to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, ‘‘ the most dangerous man in the Third Reich’’ and seen by some as the heir-apparent to Hitler. ABCIK — that’s his name — really did exist.’’ So runs the uneasy opening line of Laurent Binet’s HHhH, a historical novel is also practically at war
The loopy title HHhH is an acronym for Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich, which translates into English plainly as ‘‘ Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’’.
Binet is fascinated and repulsed by Heydrich and spends the first half of his debut novel documenting his horrifying rise in power, before giving way to the heroics of Gabcik and Kubis.
Mixed throughout these parallel plots are the French author’s observations about the process of writing his novel. The book is a book, of course, but it’s also a book about being a book.
Binet’s voice — and Binet has made it clear in interviews that he and his narrator are one and the same — is witty, charming and erudite, but he’s also often indignant at other works of fiction, and deeply serious when considering his responsibility as a writer to the legacy of those he writes about (and those he doesn’t).