the discovery of heaven

mulisch

Over a year ago, Diana recommended Harry Mulisch’s novel The Discovery of Heaven. I think I bought it the same day. But, it turned out, not only is it over 700 pages, the print is also very small. I couldn’t read it. I had my eye operation something like a week later. Then it took a while. The book ended up in some pile somewhere. But now I’ve read it. It is full of ‘mystical silliness’ as Diana puts it, but of course I love that. I also agree with her that it is possible to see it as  ‘an anthroposophical novel, though it is not overtly so; in fact, the narrator makes a couple of rather disparaging remarks about anthroposophy, but the worldview is the same.’ In many ways it’s a lot more anthroposophical than Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, for example, where anthroposophy is overtly present, and then as an object of personal study and interest for the main character. In contrast, Mulisch’s book does not in any way, formally or openly, express anthroposophical ideas (and much less identifies them as such), but when it comes to the ideas that underlie it, make up the plot and the overarching themes of the book — there are certainly rather magnificent parallels. In addition there are countless small details that remind me of anthroposophical ideas.

Of course, anthroposophy is clearly not the only source of ideas for this book — definitely not — but it would surprise me if it wasn’t in some way one source of inspiration along with numerous other philosophies and spiritual systems of thought. The book is simply full of marvellous ideas, and presumably many that strike me as very anthroposophical are hardly unique to anthroposophy. And there are also contradictory ideas. But it is nevertheless striking how much you come across in i that reminds you of or resembles anthroposophical thoughts and concepts — and how much in it that resembles the anthroposophical conception of the world, man, higher worlds, meaning, destiny, freedom, good and evil, et c.

This obviously (or so I think!) makes for a very entertaining and exciting read, and I can very much recommend this extraordinarily intelligent novel. (Not sure if you can read the text on the back cover, but if you can, the praise is pretty accurate as far as I’m concerned. And yes, ugly with the price tag. I didn’t notice. This short description is fairly good. Just don’t read the entry about the book on wikipedia — I did, only now, and I’m glad I didn’t before I read the book.)

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