In 1992, the eternal contender for the Nobel Prize for literature, Harry Mulisch, presented this novel-romance, which was declared the best Dutch-language literary work in history in 2007. Trad&Go, experts in literary translation, provides the details of this masterpiece.
Literary translation has been a source of great passion and interest for centuries. Each month, Trad&Go, your translation agency, recommends a masterpiece that you can read in many languages. Or not.
Although there are critics who consider it a failure due to its phantasmagorical dénouement, the mythical adventure of its protagonist trio is unparalleled thanks to its sense of humour, erudition and literary ambition.
The Hague, 1967. Onno and Max meet for the first time. Everything suggests that it is by chance. However, over the following decades and in overlapping countries and settings, you come to suspect that there is a preconceived plan for their mutual encounter and that of Ada, the future mother of their child (!), whose belated mission might be to find and return the famous Ten Commandments to the hands of God Himself.
If Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables embodies the great epic of 19th-century France, and Ramón J. Sender’s Chronicles of the Dawn the great epic of 20th-century Spain, The Discovery of Heaven plays a similar role for the Netherlands.
Through its characters – one of whom is the son of a Nazi father and a Jewish mother, like the book’s author – it portrays a Dutch society tugged by historical forces that overtake it like a boat in the middle of the ocean.
A fine spinner of dialogues animated by the ironic capacity of his characters, Mulisch offers us a cheerful and somewhat melancholic reflection on the elusive meaning of life and the conjuring function of religions.
Did you know that this novel was made into a film in 2001, starring the British actor Stephen Fry? This book has been translated into 11 languages. Are you going to read it?
“Who reads ten centuries of history and doesn’t close it when they see the same things with a different date?”
Read books: use the master key that opens every door
For as long as the world has existed and people have inhabited and travelled it, basically the same things have always happened, one generation after another. Since ancient times, books have been telling stories with their unhurried voice. Literature is the sharp and infallible microscope invented by human beings to look at themselves in the mirror of their conscience without being able to look away. The kaleidoscopic truth of literature hypnotises like an abyss and liberates like someone growing wings. Do you want to learn more? Read books. Do you hope to understand current affairs beyond their superficial disguise? Read books. Do you feel like a puppet in the gullible and indistinct daily crowd? Read books.