The Assault

Mulisch, Harry

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Mar-05-1998


In the winter of 1945 during the last days of the Nazi occupation of Holland, a Nazi collaborator is assassinated.

In retaliation, the Germans execute the adults in a Dutch family but eventually deliver one 12 year old son to safety. The Assault traces the lifelong repercussions of this event on Anton's life. It examines his attempts to forget and the strange periodic "episodes," little chance events, that continue to force the memory to surface long enough to become complete enough that he, as an aging adult, can finally effect closure and true "forgetting."


The author of this work is cited as Holland's most important post-war writer. The novel is a marvelous study of the caprices of memory, such as the willing of amnesia and the intrusion of chance into the strategy of using forgetting as a mechanism for healing. The metaphysical interpretations Mulisch applies to his hero's coping methods are fascinating and offer wonderful insights into human behavior, at least in the demonstrated reluctance of some terribly traumatized persons to discuss their experiences.


First published: 1982. Translated by Claire Nicolas White.



Place Published

New York



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