HHhH stands for “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. A reference to the idea that Reinhard Heydrich was the brains in the SS, not Heinrich Himmler.
This book tells the story of the assassination of Heydrich in Prague in 1942. But it’s much more then a simple war novel, or spy thriller.
Reinhard Heydrich is one of the primary architects of the Holocaust. He was head of the Gestapo; he could have succeeded Hitler. What makes Heydrich so intimidating is that he was competent in sane in ways that most of the Nazi bigwigs simply where not. If you look at the top echelons of Nazis – Hitler, Himmler, Goering, Goebbles – they’re all freaks. And really not terribly competent. Heydrich combined the shameless evil of Hitler and Himmler with a bureaucratic ability and grasp on reality that most of the other potentates simply didn’t have. And while the Nazi bigwigs do not look like superior Pure Aryans, Heydrich does. Well, he does much more then the others do. It would be hard to underestimate the power that this could give him.
He’s the most dangerous Nazi. He has to die.
Laurent Binet’s book is a complex web of literary styles. It’s very postmodern. It’s part novel, part history, part personal account and part crime thriller. He breaks the Fourth Wall constantly. He swims in causality and the complexity of reality; history lies heavy in this book.
Amazingly, it succeeds in every role it takes on. It works has history, and as a thriller. The break down of the assassination attempt is riveting; the background and complexity of it all is well documented.
Binet even does an admirable job covering other books and movies about WWII; he’s a WWII fanboy and that makes this book very fun to read.
Anyone who loves history will like this book. It may not be for people who like historical fiction – Laurent Binet is a major character in this book – but it does capture the spy thriller crowd.
It’s also a surprisingly light read that manages to go very deep at the same time. Brilliant and hard to do.