There are so many stories written in and of Prague that the city’s streets – both real and imagined – are teeming with plots and characters. Perhaps aware of the promise fêted in the juncture of fact and fiction, French writer Laurent Binet exercises their full potential in his acclaimed debut novel HHhH.
The year is 1942 and two Czechoslovakian parachutists have been dispatched from London to their German-occupied homeland on a top secret mission: to assassinate the head of the Gestapo, Reinhardt Heydrich. No simple task if you consider Heydrich’s unofficial decoration was “the most dangerous man in the Third Reich”.
Re-imagining the assassination plot is only one of Binet’s objectives. An interrogation runs parallel to the story: when writing historical fiction, what responsibility does an author have towards real people and events? His frequent asides pepper HHhH with surprising touches of humour and warmth to what could otherwise have been a suffocating and bleak endeavour.
Reviewed by Todd Atticus, main buyer at Unity Books Wellington