Paperback review: HHhH, By Laurent Binet (trs by Sam Taylor)


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The Independent Culture

The main character of this 'true novel' is the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich – the title comes from the SS phrase, "Himlers Hirn heisst Heydrich" ("Himmler's brain is called Heydrich") – career murderer and a chief architect of the Final Solution, a sadist who deliberately allows a political opponent to bleed to death rather than finish him off with a second bullet, devoid of redeeming features, unless a talent for the violin counts.

He is not the protagonist but the target. The heroes are the Slovak Jozef Gabcik and the Czech Jan Kubis, who carry out a practically suicidal attempt to assassinate him. It's an intriguing meditation on truth and fiction; Binet reflects on his research and the story he's formulating as he constructs it. It's also a nail-biter, even if you know the ending.