Year of a Hundred books – #27 HHhH

HHhHHHhH, by Laurent Binet


Wow. I absolutely loved this book. It’s also caused me to fundamentally rethink a number of key philosophies about historical novels.

Because HHhH is most emphatically not historical fiction. In fact, it’s not fiction at all. Binet explicitly states that he finds the concept of creating fictional characters, dialogue and situations excessively vulgar (Here taking a cue from another author whose work I’ve loved; Milan Kundera), and thus in his depiction of the assasination of the SS second in command Reinhard Heydrich, Binet includes nothing that isn’t historically verifiable. (That said, the historian in me notices he rarely cites his sources academically!)

This leads to an interesting novel that is at times more concerned with the authorial process of research, editing, and at times, obsession over the topic, than it is with the topic itself.

It’ll be interesting to see how Binet follows this up, and indeed whether the book is sincere, or if the ‘author’ we read about in the book, is actually a constructed persona instead of reflecting Binet’s actual beliefs.

Either way, I cannot recommend this enough!

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