Synopses & Reviews
Laurent Binets HHhH, winner of the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, is “a work of breadth, and absolute originality” (Claude Lanzmann)
Everyone has heard of Reinhard Heydrich, “the Butcher of Prague.” And most have heard stories of his spectacular assassination at the hands of two Czechoslovakian partisans. But who exactly were the forgotten heroes who killed one of historys most notorious men? In Laurent Binets captivating debut novel, HHhH (Himmlers Hirn heiBt Heydrich, or Himmlers brain is called Heydrich), we follow the lives of Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubiš, the Slovak and the Czech responsible for Heydrichs death. From their heroic escape from Nazi-occupied Prague to their recruitment by the British secret services; from their meticulous preparation and training to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone; from their stealth attack on Heydrichs car to their own brutal deaths in the basement of a Prague church, Binet narrates the compelling story of these two incredible men, rescuing their heroic acts from obscurity. The winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman, Binets HHhH is a novel unlike anything else. A seemingly effortless blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Binets remarkable imagination, HHhH is a work at once thrilling and deeply engrossing—a historical novel and a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.
"Taking its title from the German for 'Himmler's brain is called Heydrich,' Binet's tour de force debut tells two stories: primarily that of the daring mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the prominent Nazi Protector of Bohemia and Moravia known as 'The Butcher' and 'The Man with the Iron Heart' (a nickname of Hitler's creation) among other epithets. It is also, however, the metafictional tale of Binet's struggles with shaping the story. The novel's 257 short chapters allow for these two strands to advance and entwine in gripping and revealing ways. When Binet stamps a key scene with the progressive dates of the three weeks in 2008 that it took him to render the eight-hour standoff in 1942, for instance, it deepens an already intense scene with a sense of the author's reluctance to dispatch characters he admires. Those men, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, 'authors of one of the greatest acts of resistance in human history,' were trained in England and parachuted back into Nazi-occupied Bohemia on a mission they both knew might be suicidal. After months of planning, on May 27, 1942, they ambushed Heydrich in Prague. Weeks later they were cornered in a church basement, and Binet renders an almost unbearable account of their final hours fending off the SS. With history never in question, it is Binet's details (such as Heydrich succumbing to an infection from having 'horsehairs from the Mercedes's seats' blasted into his spleen) and his compassion for the partisans that elevate these set pieces. His thoughts on the perils of the genre are also succinct and striking; inserting invented characters into historical novels is 'like planting false proof at a crime scene where the floor is already strewn with incriminating evidence.' Binet demonstrates without a doubt that a self aware, cerebral structure can be deployed in the service of a gripping historical read. A perfect fusion of action and the avante-garde that deserves a place as a great WWII novel." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich”, or “Himmlers brain is called Heydrich”. The most dangerous man in Hitlers cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague.” He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.
Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binets captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabćik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrichs car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.
A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binets remarkable imagination, HHhH—an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman—is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.
HHhH is one of The New York Times' Notable Books of 2012.
“HHhH blew me away... Its one of the best historical novels Ive ever come across.”—Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho and Less Than Zero
A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
HHhH: “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich,” or “Himmlers brain is called Heydrich.” The most lethal man in Hitlers cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two exiled operatives, a Slovak and a Czech, killed him and changed the course of history.
In Laurent Binets mesmerizing debut, we follow Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to their fatal attack on Heydrich and their own brutal deaths in the basement of a Prague church. A seamless blend of memory, actuality, and Binets own remarkable imagination, HHhH is at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing—a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the debt we owe to history.
About the Author
Laurent Binet was born in Paris, France, in 1972. He is the author of La Vie professionnelle de Laurent B., a memoir of his experience teaching in secondary schools in Paris. In March 2010, his debut novel, HHhH, won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman. Laurent Binet is a professor at the University of Paris III, where he lectures on French literature.