The Discovery of Heaven Read-a-Long: Week 4


I’m joining in Iris on Books’ read-a-long of The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulish (1992), a book by a Dutch writer. I’m Dutch myself (as Iris is) and so it’s great fun to do a read-a-long of a countryman’s big tome. Big it is, over 900 pages.

I’m a little late reading the fourth and final part, which is The End of the End. Watch out, spoilers!

Summary

Well, I started skimming a few pages! This was Onno talking politics and philosophy. No thanks!

After that, the story turns back to Quinten, who is in Rome and coincidentally meets his father there. Onno is hardly recognisable, he looks very shabby and doesn’t seem to have looked after himself well. Quinten moves in with Onno, who has been living in Rome for a long time.

They go on touristic trips and in one particular chapel, Quinten feels there is something special. The chapel is called the holiest place on earth. Quinten and Onno go to the library to do research. Lots of religious discussion ensues and eventually Quinten is convinced the tablets with the ten commandments are hidden in the chapel.

Onno can’t believe that, but gets himself and his son locked inside the chapel at night and steal some stone slabs, which may or may not be the ten commandments. They travel to Jerusalem (by accident) where they don’t know what to do but again visit touristic attractions and learn more about the religious background of the locations they visit.

Then Quinten gets a kind of dream in which he drops the tablets on a marble floor and the letters, all the text of the ten commandments fly in the air, up into the sky. This way the ten commandments return to heaven.

Discussion

I know I missed many references and symbolism here! I didn’t read it all and I certainly didn’t understand it all.

I did get the feeling this final part of the book was a Dan Brown novel avant la lettre. It was fun to see whether Quinten really had found those very old tablets but I could have done with much of the religious discussion.

The book ended in confusion for me. What had actually happened? How was this important for the angels in heaven that had manipulated Quinten and Onno? I’m not sure, I will check other people’s write-ups to see if they can make sense of it!

Read also Iris’ post about this last part. Here.

What do you think of this final part?


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The Discovery of Heaven Read-a-Long: Week 3


I’m joining in Iris on Books’ read-a-long of The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulish (1992), a book by a Dutch writer. I’m Dutch myself (as Iris is) and so it’s great fun to do a read-a-long of a countryman’s big tome. Big it is, over 900 pages.

For this week, we read the third part, which is The Beginning of the End.

Summary

Max, Sophia and the little Quinten have found a place to live, near Max’ work in Westerbork. It’s a great place, a castle that has been divided up into apartments. They settle down quickly and when Quinten is a little bigger he can be found visiting his various neighbours regularly.

Onno, Quinten’s father, has gone back to his old girlfriend Helga, but he doesn’t want to divorce Ada, who is still in a coma. His career is looking up, he becomes secretary of state – for a while. After that, the government changes and he’s been offered a Minister’s post. But digging in his past reveals his attendance at the conference in Cuba. He loses his job. For him, that is the ideal chance to find out what to do with his life: he disappears. He leaves a note saying that he does not want to be found. Only his solicitor knows where he is, but he will not say anything.

Meanwhile, Quinten grows up, becomes a teenager. From a very young age it’s been clear that he is very clever. He understands things very easily and surprises the adults around him with his insights. At school, he is not popular, and he himself has no interest in playing with other children. He has been having dreams about a building and tries to find out if it really exists.

Then, by a stroke of lightning, Max dies. Not long after he funeral, Quinten tells Sophia that he wants to leave so he can find his real father, Onno. Sophia pleads with him to finish school first, he’s 17 years old and only has one more year to go. But Quinten can’t wait, and leaves.

Discussion

I loved the castle! How brilliant to be moving into a castle. That’s book-candy for me.

Quinten turns out to be a precocious child. Well, that didn’t surprise me one bit. That Max died was unexpected for me, but he probably isn’t needed anymore, so Mulish takes him out of the story.

I’m not sure what to expect next. Quinten will be looking for his father, but has he got any chance of finding him? I don’t really think so. Unless he finds a way to draw Onno out, which is what he’s plotting at the end of this section.

Read also Iris’ post about this thirdpart. Here.

What do you think of the third part?


The Discovery of Heaven Read-a-Long: Week 2


I’m joining in Iris on Books’ read-a-long of The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulish (1992), a book by a Dutch writer. I’m Dutch myself (as Iris is) and so it’s great fun to do a read-a-long of a countryman’s big tome. Big it is, over 900 pages.

For this week, we read the second part, which is The End of the Beginning.

Summary

First Ada gets arrested for shoplifting, but let go again by a friendly police officer. She also finds out she is pregnant. Onno is delighted, but Max knows it could just as well be his baby. Onno and Ada get married, in a slightly unconventional way (Onno’s family doesn’t approve of the way it’s done, but at least they’re married).

The three friends go to Westerbork, to look at the telescopes and Max’ working space. But in the middle of the night, they are called because Ada’s father has been taken to hospital. The weather is awful and as it’s dark, the drive back is very heavy going. When they have to stop for a tree that has fallen onto the road, another tree hits the car and Ada goes into a coma.

When Max goes to visit Ada’s mother, Sophia, to tell her the bad news, she offers him a bed for the night, and in the dark, she joins him in bed and has sex with him. She invites Max over more often, and although they don’t talk about it during the day, at night the same thing happens every time. Her husband has died the same night he fell ill.

Onno’s family have a meeting to decide who should look after the baby, as Ada is still in coma, and Onno, as a man, can’t be expected to look after it by himself. But then Max has an idea: Ada’s mother will come with him to Westerbork and look after the baby and him, as a kind of housekeeper. No one besides Max and Sophia know that they have been sleeping together. Onno decides that that seems the best solution. Too early, the baby is born, by Caesarian section. Onno calls him Quinten.

Discussion

I’m enjoying the story. I guess Ada is of no further use so she is out of the way in a coma. Also, this gives Max (who we know is the real father) the possibility to look after the baby.

I’m a bit worried that the baby will start to look like Max and that Onno will find out about the deceit at some point. And what will happen to Ada? If the idea is that the baby stays with Max, then she certainly can’t ever wake up again (and it doesn’t look like she will).

I was keen to keep reading, but I will keep to the schedule of the read-a-long!

Read also Iris’ post about this second part. Here.

What do you think of the second part?


The Discovery of Heaven Read-a-Long: Week 1


I’m joining in Iris on Books’ read-a-long of The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulish (1992), a book by a Dutch writer. I’m Dutch myself (as Iris is) and so it’s great fun to do a read-a-long of a countryman’s big tome. Big it is, over 900 pages.

For this week, we read the first part, which is The Beginning of the Beginning.

I was wondering what I had let myself in for when I started with the prologue. It’s some entities in heaven discussing how they managed to get Ada Brons and Max Delius together. They (the entities) first got their grandparents together and worked it from there.

Well, what am I to think? Is this going to be some metaphysical or theological discussion? But no, when the actual story about Ada and Max finally started, it was good.

Summary

Max Delius is a scientist, an astronomer and one middle of the night he gives Onno Quist a lift. They have never met before but they “click” and are instant friends. Max is a very organised person, as can be seen from his house, while Onno is very unruly. Onno is  an expert in one particular dead language, although he speaks a multitude of live languages too.

Max’ parents are dead: his father revealed the location of Max’ Jewish mother in the second world war, and she and her family were taken to a concentration camp were they were killed. Later, Max’ father was executed for this.

Max meets Ada, a cellist in a duo, and they have a relationship for a while. But Ada breaks it up when Max is more interested in his friendship with Onno than with her. Not much later, she becomes Onno’s girlfriend.

Max is meanwhile gone to the Eastern Block to find out more about his family’s history. He comes back rather depressed with how little he finds. This is taking place in the 1960s, and when Ada and her duo partner Bruno are asked to perform in Cuba, Max and Onno are keen to join in. They manage to get visa also and the three of them travel to Cuba.

Somehow, through a (deliberate?) misunderstanding, Max and Onno are seen as the Dutch delegation for a communist convention. They go to some meetings in which the top of world’s communism is present. Ada meanwhile is at a different convention, about arts and culture.

The last day they decide to go to the beach, except Onno, who secretly picks up a woman whom he sleeps with. At the beach, Max and Ada also get together.

Discussion

Not much to say really, the story is quite straigth forward. At least, in my eyes.

Of course, Max and Onno could be seen as a kind of brothers, opposites in some respects (e.g., tidiness) and similar in others (choice of girlfriend). Ada doesn’t seem to make much of a distinction between them. They are both fine as boyfriends, as far as she’s concerned.

I myself also found it hard to keep Max and Onno apart, they were too similar for me.

The writing I find easy and pleasant. The story reminds me a little of W. F. Hermans’ De tranen der acacia’s (The Tears of the Acacias) which also has two male protagonists with loose morals. Hermans’ book is more pessimistic, Mulish book has a more uplifting tone.

I enjoyed reading this and look forward to the next instalment.

Read also Iris’ post about this first part – she’s is a lot more critical than me! Here.

What do you think of the first part?


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