Nominated by:

Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, France

Limerick City Library, Ireland

Boston Public Library, USA

Cleveland Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, USA

Harvill Secker, UK


Laurent Binet      

Translated from the original French by Sam Taylor

2014 Longlist

Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services, ‘the hangman of Prague’, ‘the blond beast’, ‘the most dangerous man in the Third Reich’.

His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’, which in German spells HHhH.

All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up?

HHhH is a panorama of the Third Reich told through the life of one outstandingly brutal man, a story of unbearable heroism and loyalty, revenge and betrayal. It is improbably entertaining and electrifyingly modern, a moving and shattering work of fiction.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

HHhH is Laurent Binet’s first novel. He lives and works in France. HHhH won the prestigious Prix Goncourt du premier roman and the Prix des Lecteurs du Livre de Poche.

Librarian’s Comments

A captivating and matchless historical debut novel. A seemingly effortless blend of historical truth and remarkable imagination. A work at once thrilling and deeply engrossing, a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history. A book that blows you away, told with elegance and grace, a fast-paced novel about the Second World War. The style of the narration is truly awesome. A unique combination of historical events and a fascinating analysis of where fact and creativity merge and diverge. We read with rapt attention the ruminations on his creative process and obsession with this story and what to put in what and what to leave out.

This book stood out as it broke the rules of writing about history. The author has imagined scenarios and created histories yet it is rooted in real events. His writing style is clear, even though he dips in and out of time periods and breaks off to signal his own thoughts. It is a thoughtful, insightful and absorbing work.

Binet – both the author and the narrator of HHhH – recounts the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany in WW2, and the bravery of the Czech Resistance. The historical narrative is interspersed with the author’s apprehension about making these crimes against humanity an entertaining read. HHhH is an unusual and compelling take on the historical novel.

In HHhH, Laurent Binet creates a unique historical novel in which the author (narrator) plays in an active voice in the retelling of the “Butcher of Praque’s” assassination during World War 2. The novel’s construction creates an uncertainty in the reader’s mind, constantly questioning what is fictional and what can be truly real.

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