Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet’s 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 Heydrich’s car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.
A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s 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.
“A literary tour de force . . . [HHhH] is a gripping novel that brings us closer to history as it really happened.” —Alan Riding, The New York Times Book Review
“[An] extraordinary first novel . . . HHhH, translated from the French by Sam Taylor, charts Heydrich’s rise through the Nazi ranks and Germany’s march to war . . . [to] the training in Britain of the Czech and Slovak assassins, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabcík, who parachuted into the country in December 1941 to kill Heydrich. Ample material for a decent espionage thriller, but Binet, ‘a slave to my scruples,’ makes something altogether less commonplace of it. His fidelity to the historical record, and obsessive urge to analyse those moments where surmise replaces fact, makes HHhH as much about the technical and moral processes of writing a historical novel as it is a historical novel . . . This unusual method results in a literary triumph . . . Using short, punchy chapters, Binet keeps his story haring along. The book’s final section, which recounts the assassination and subsequent manhunt in minute detail, is a masterpiece of tension, and its closing pages are extremely moving. Very few page-turners come as smart and original as this.” —Chris Power, The Times (London)
“Captivating . . . [HHhH] has a vitality very different from that of most historical fiction.” —James Wood, The New Yorker
“[Binet] knows how to wrangle powerful moments from history.” —Susannah Meadows, The New York Times
“[HHhH is] a marvelous, charming, engaging novel.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
“Every now and then a piece of work comes along that undermines the assumptions upon which all previous works have been built . . . These pieces of art complicate the genre for everyone that follows. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius did it for the memoir, Reservoir Dogs for action films, and now HHhH does it for the historical novel. Laurent Binet’s brilliantly translated debut deconstructs the process of fiction writing in the face of the brute reality of facts . . . Binet’s [HHhH] resets the path of the historical novel. He has a bright, bright future.” —David Annand, The Telegraph
“One of the best and most original new novels I’ve read in years.” —Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Ingenious and inventive . . . HHhH [is a] knockout blow in the boxing match of genre-defying literature. Binet steps between styles with ease . . . [and] has written a tale of Heydrich to defy most academic study. Moreover, Binet has managed to engage. His description is playful and joyous, at times even wrongfully celebratory, but always, always surprisingly on form. As a deserving winner of the Prix Goncourt, HHhH is a fantastic read. As a dynamic assault on the genres of contemporary writing, HHhH must join that coterie of celebrated titles: it is unique.” —Charles J. Haynes, California Literary Review
“An impressive debut . . . HHhH is fascinating not only because of the subject matter, but also because of the immense amount of detail Binet includes. The book transports and enraptures. It also impresses upon the reader the legacy of that history. His reflections on how to write the book with thoroughness and integrity and the effect of the project on his life are examples of how important the subject and the consequences of the history are to him. Heydrich’s life is not as documented as those of other high ranking Nazi officers. By researching and publishing HHhH, Binet reminds the reader that history has myriads of layers, but that they are all relevant in our contemporary world.” —Ashley McNelis, Bomb
“[HHhH is] quirky, clever . . . Binet makes a very perceptive and informed recording angel, one with an exceptionally clear and unfussy prose style (rendered extremely well by the translator, Sam Taylor). It doesn’t hurt that he has triple-A premium material, but Binet doesn’t push too hard to give the events a meaning. He lets them be the tragedy that they are, and as such they’re devastating.” —Lev Grossman, Time.com
“[HHhH] is as much a meditation on fictionalizing history—on factual truth versus a more expansive definition of truth, on the obligations and the agendas of writers—as it is a story about an assassination . . . Binet accomplishes something paradoxical. By clinging to the historical record and a very strict definition of truth, he transcends the barest facts and creates a work with its own heft and depth . . . [He] has produced the only essential piece of World War II fiction in years.” —Jessica Crispin, Barnes & Noble Review
“[HHhH] is utterly compelling and ruthlessly fascinating.” —Laurence Mackin, Irish Times
“A breezily charming novel, with a thrilling story that also happens to be true, by a gifted young author . . . [Binet] marshals and deploys his materials with exceptional dramatic skill . . . By the time you reach the book’s devastating finale, it’s this discreet storytelling mastery . . . that leaves the deepest impression.” —James Lasdun, The Guardian
“A cracking book . . . With its double-narrative and its authorial playfulness, HHhH reads in places like a stylistic homage to WG Sebald or Italo Calvino.” —Ruadhán MacCormaic, Irish Times
“That HHhH is so devastatingly brilliant is testament to both its originality and ambition. In fact, it would not be going too far to say it is a modern masterpiece.” —Rob Minshull, ABC (Brisbane)
“HHhH triumphs precisely because it not only delicately, and sometimes grippingly, depicts a major historical moment, but because it manages to depict the unique challenges of 21st-century remembrance.” —Michael Lapointe, The Globe and Mail
“HHhH is brilliant.