The Discovery of Heaven

Harry Mulisch, Author, Paul Vincent, Translator Viking Books $34.95 (752p) ISBN 978-0-670-85668-8
In a new novel bulging with metaphysical speculation, Dutch author Mulisch masterfully intersperses mathematics, biology, linguistics, numerology, philosophy and theology. When two strangers meet on a cold night in The Hague, Onno Quist, a linguist and politician from a well-to-do family, and Max Delius, an astronomer, have no idea that their relationship will change the course of human existence. Their meeting, however, like many of the momentous events that occur in the novel, is no accident of chance. It is the product of the careful manipulations by two angels acting at the request of God, who, upset that people are on the verge of mapping the genetic code and thus deciphering the secret of creation, desires to wash His hands of His creation. Disgusted with human behavior, the two angels plot to retrieve the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, thus breaking God's covenant with humanity. The two angels surmise that the 17th-century philosopher of science Francis Bacon made a pact with the devil for which all of mankind must atone--because scientific knowledge quickly superseded humanity's belief in God. The angels contrive a series of complex events involving Onno, Max and Ada Brons, a bright and beautiful cellist, in order to create Quinten, the boy who will be their unwitting instrument for fulfilling God's doomsday plan. As Onno, Max and Quinten think and work through their lives, they arrive, ultimately, at the impossible and forbidden--the discovery of heaven by means of science rather than faith. God has never been so unforgiving. Hope remains, however, that the next fallen angel might be more benevolent than the last. Mulisch, author of the critically hailed Last Call and The Assault, has created a masterpiece that not only brings his characters closer to discovering heaven but also prods them nearer to knowing themselves. Remarkably, he escalates his plot to ever more complex levels of thought without diminishing the strong, suspenseful (and, in Vincent's fluid translation, often funny) narrative thrust. This is novel-writing on a gloriously grand, hubristic scale. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 12/02/1996
Release date: 12/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 736 pages - 978-0-14-027238-3
Paperback - 736 pages - 978-0-241-95320-4
Paperback - 736 pages - 978-0-14-023937-9
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