(05-11-2014, updated 07-26-2018) With The Assault, Harry Mulisch has not only written a World War Two novel that connects perfectly with the Dutch collective memory; his ideas about history and time, expressed throughout in metaphor, imagery and myth, ultimately manifest themselves by means of the very structure of the book, making it a historical novel par excellence.
(05-11-2014, updated 07-26-2018) Dutch readers in the 1980s, recognized many of the historical aspects of the novel. In fact, history is so cleverly woven together with fiction that many readers thought the whole story was factual. The Belgian television even came to film at the location of the assault, but they could not find it
(05-10-2014, updated 07-26-2018) Harry Mulisch addresses the fact that historical events, as well as events on a personal level, are determined by both causality and sheer coincidence. History is also a matter of selection and reduction. History is not just reduced to symbols. Mulisch believes quite specifically that what remains of history is fiction.
(05-08-2014, updated 07-26-2018) It has been argued that The Assault is not a real historical novel, since many of the events are determined by coincidence; however, this view denies that history is, in fact, a combination of causality and accident.
(05-07-2014, updated 07-26-2018) The narrator of The Assault (De aanslag) by Harry Mulisch mentions that this is "the [history] of an incident". Not history, consisting of a series of incidents will be described, but the history of an incident--an incident that changes over time.
(05-06-2014, updated 07-26-2018) Everyone is alone in his own present. Time comes to a standstill for Anton, and this isolates him from the rest of humanity. During the hunger winter, life has literally come to a standstill. There is no food, no water (the pipes in the houses are frozen, as is the canal), no fuel, no transportation, no information, no light.
(05-05-2014, updated 07-25-2018) By structuring The Assault as a Greek tragedy, Mulisch has created a timeless epic.. And so we arrive at the element of time, which plays an important part in most of Mulisch's work.
(05-04-2014, updated 07-25-2018) The Assault by Harry Mulisch is structured like a Greek tragedy. The prologue sets the stage for the action, and it mirrors the main themes of the book. Anton watches a man push a barge forward with a pole, "a man walking backwards to push something forward, while staying in the same place himself".
(05-03-2014, updated 07-25-2018) The Assault by Harry Mulisch is divided into five episodes, covering a time span of thirty-six years, in which the protagonist, Anton Steenwijk, suffers the violence and guilt of the German occupation of the Netherlands.
(First published 05-02-2014) Anton was reading an article in Nature and Mechanics. For his birthday he had been given a secondhand bound copy of the 1938 edition: “A Letter to Posterity”. A photograph showed a group of well-fed Americans in their shirtsleeves looking up at a large, shiny capsule shaped like a torpedo that hung vertically above their heads.
(05-02-2014, updated 07-25-2018) The Assault by Harry Mulisch: a historical novel par excellence. The following posts are a paper I wrote in graduate school about The Assault (De aanslag), a novel by my favorite Dutch author, Harry Mulisch. It's titled "History and Time in Harry Mulisch's The Assault". It discusses the different ways Mulisch uses time and history, while examining structure, narration and Mulisch's ideas about time, history and fiction.