12 November, 2008

Harry Mulisch


Harry Mulisch is a Dutch author. Along with W.F. Hermans and Gerard Reve, he is considered one of the "Great Three" of Dutch postwar literature. He has written novels, plays, essays, poems, and philosophical reflections.

Mulisch was born in Haarlem and has been living in Amsterdam since 1958, after the death of his father in 1957. Mulisch's father was from Austria-Hungary and emigrated to the Netherlands after the First World War. During the German occupation in World War II he worked for a German bank, which also dealt with confiscated Jewish assets. His mother, Alice Schwarz, was Jewish. Mulisch and his mother escaped transport to a concentration camp thanks to Mulisch's father's collaboration with the Nazis. Due to the curious nature of his parents' positions, Mulisch has claimed that he is the Second World War. Mulisch was mostly raised by his parent's housemaid, Frieda Falk.

A frequent theme in his work is the Second World War. His father had worked for the Germans during the war and went to prison for three years afterwards. As the war encompassed most of Mulisch' puberty, it had a defining influence on his life and work. In 1963, he wrote a non-fiction work about the Eichmann case: The case 40/61. Major works set against the backdrop of the Second World War are De Aanslag, Het stenen bruidsbed, and Siegfried.

Additionally, Mulisch often incorporates ancient legends or myths in his writings, drawing on Greek mythology (e.g. in De Elementen), Jewish mysticism (in De ontdekking van de Hemel and De Procedure), well-known urban legends and politics (Mulisch is politically left-wing, notably defending Fidel Castro since the Cuban revolution). Mulisch is widely read and (according to his critics) often flaunts his philosophical and even scientific knowledge.

Mulisch gained international recognition with the movie De Aanslag (The Assault), (1986) which was based on his eponymous book. It received an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best foreign movie and has been translated in more than twenty languages.

His novel De ontdekking van de Hemel (1992) was filmed in 2001 as The Discovery of Heaven by Jeroen Krabbé, starring Stephen Fry.

Amongst many awards he has received for individual works and his total body of work, the most important is the Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren (Prize of Dutch Literature, an official lifetime achievement award) in 1995.

1 comment:

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