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Siegfried Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670032530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670032532
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 349 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,770,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
As the landing gear hit the concrete with a thump, Rudolf Herter started awake from a deep, dreamless sleep. Read the first page
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Format: Hardcover
I loved Harry Mulisch's books, THE ASSAULT and, especially, THE DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN. I thought they were rich, complex and densely layered with weighty philosophical questions that really have no clear-cut answers. I fully expected to love SIEGFRIED just as much, and I hate to say that I was terribly disappointed in it. I think it is probably Mulisch's worst book.
SIEGFRIED centers around Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun and "their child," Siegfried. The book opens in Vienna as an aging Dutch writer, Rudolf Herter (probably Mulisch's alter ego), is approached by an elderly couple, Ullrich and Julia Falk, who tell him they have a story they would like for him to hear. The story is, of course, the story of Hitler, Eva Braun and Siegfried, a boy Hitler eventually ordered put to death.
Ullrich and Julia were employed as members of the household staff at Hitler's country home during World War II. It was there, they tell Herter, that Eva Braun became pregnant and the decision was made that Adolf Hitler, for political reasons, would not marry her nor would he acknowledge his child. It was decided that Julia Falk would "pretend" to be pregnant, complete with "padding," and after Eva Braun gave birth to a boy on Kristallnacht, Ullrich and Julia became little Siegfried's "parents."
Everything might have worked out. The Falks loved Siegfried, they adored him, he was, in every way but biologically, their own son. Siegfried was happy with the Falks. He flourished. But there was a dark cloud on the horizon. Hitler wanted Siegfried killed. In fact, he ordered his execution.
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By A. Ross on Feb. 8 2004
Format: Hardcover
Well regarded Dutch author Mulisch tosses his hat into the crowded ring of Hitler fiction with this brief novel pondering the notion of Hitler having sired a child by Eva Braun. The book's protagonist is Rudolf Herter, a renown Dutch author in Vienna for a reading at a prestigious cultural center (and, one suspects, a fictional stand-on for Mulisch himself). On this tour for his epic reinvention of Tristan and Isolde, Herter remarks on TV that the only way to truly understand Hitler would be to place him in some kind of fictional situation that would allow one to really get inside his head. Obviously this is a rather shaky premise, but without it there is no story.
It's already a third of the way into the book when an elderly couple approach Herter and claim to have been Hitler's personal servants at the Wolf's Lair. When he visits them the next day, they tell him an incredible story of how they came to be his servants and what befell them in their course of service. This middle third of the book is actually quite fascinating, painting a portrait of Hitler's mountain hideaway and inner circle that's quite personal and intriguing. Their story unfolds with great tension until it is revealed that they were enlisted to act our a role as
parents of the son born to Eva Braun on Kristallnacht.
After this stunning revelation (and one or two more besides), the author retreats to his hotel where he falls into a frenzy of philosophizing. At this point, the story comes off the rails, as Herter goes wild linking Hegel, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, St.
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Format: Hardcover
Rudolf Herter is an, in his own opinion brilliant, elderly Dutch writer with an Austrian background. After a lecture in Vienna he gets in contact with the former personal servants of Hitler and via them he finds out that Hitler and Eva Braun had a son and that this son met an untimely death. He thinks that through these revelations he has also gotten a better insight into the being of Hitler, but in the end this insight proves to be fatal.
This book covers an intriguing subject, Hitler. The brilliant Rudolf Herter radiates his brilliance a little bit too obviously and this makes this alter ago of the author rather irritating, especially in the first part of the book. As the story develops, the book becomes more intriguing and more pleasant to read. But in the end the question remains whether Mulisch succeeded in explaining Hitler and one can wonder whether anybody will ever be able to explain Hitler.
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Format: Hardcover
This slim, deceptively simple novel recounts a week in the life of reknowned Dutch author Rudolph Herter, who, during the course of a promotional book tour in Vienna, meets an elderly Austrian couple with a shocking past. After the couple reveal a fascinating tale of their role in raising Hitler and Eva Braun's son, the story turns inward and we enter a harrowing journey into the brilliant author's mind as he wrestles with the nature of Hitler's evil. It's a thought-provoking yet oddly fun ride, with plenty of insights into Hitler's inner circle. Reminiscent in some ways of Ron Hansen's "Hitler's Niece" in its blend of fact and fiction, "Siegfried" will not disappoint fans of the genre, like me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A sinister study of a distraught mind Dec 5 2004
By Geert Daelemans - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rudolf Herter, a famous Dutch author, arrives in Vienna for a reading and some interviews. But what he thinks is yet another mission to promote his latest book turns out to be the start of a sinister quest. During a television interview, in a moment when he was out of his usual set of answers, he makes a statement that not only surprises his audience, but most of all himself: I want to catch Hitler and place him in such an environment that his true spirit is revealed. When an old couple offers to help him reach this singular goal, he gets an answer to a question that he was not prepared to ask.

With Siegfried Harry Mulisch wrote a very powerful and at the same time estranging novel. As one can imagine, a dive into the deranged mind of Adolf Hitler will not leave anyone undisturbed. But when that same experience leaves you with a discovery that is so horrible that it is better kept hidden from the public, its effect could be destructive. With a remarkable ease succeeds Mulisch in pulling the reader slowly into an idea that will spook the mind of any reader. The narrative is kept sober on purpose, as not to break the effect of its meaning.

Sadly enough, just at the time the story reaches its climax, Mulisch decides to open up his full vocabulary to describe what it "actually" all means. Apart from being quite incomprehensible to the normal reader, it turns out to be completely unnecessary page stuffing. I can understand that an intelligent author sometimes feels the need to show off with some very deep thoughts, but in this masterfully build-up plot it fits like the devil in a blue dress. If you look at it from another perspective it could even be interpreted as an insult to the reader, where the author takes the reader by the hand to explain some difficult concepts.

Apart from this let-down at the end Siegfried stay an intriguing study of a distraught mind that reads like a full fletched psychological thriller.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Thin Gruel Feb. 8 2004
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Well regarded Dutch author Mulisch tosses his hat into the crowded ring of Hitler fiction with this brief novel pondering the notion of Hitler having sired a child by Eva Braun. The book's protagonist is Rudolf Herter, a renown Dutch author in Vienna for a reading at a prestigious cultural center (and, one suspects, a fictional stand-on for Mulisch himself). On this tour for his epic reinvention of Tristan and Isolde, Herter remarks on TV that the only way to truly understand Hitler would be to place him in some kind of fictional situation that would allow one to really get inside his head. Obviously this is a rather shaky premise, but without it there is no story.
It's already a third of the way into the book when an elderly couple approach Herter and claim to have been Hitler's personal servants at the Wolf's Lair. When he visits them the next day, they tell him an incredible story of how they came to be his servants and what befell them in their course of service. This middle third of the book is actually quite fascinating, painting a portrait of Hitler's mountain hideaway and inner circle that's quite personal and intriguing. Their story unfolds with great tension until it is revealed that they were enlisted to act our a role as
parents of the son born to Eva Braun on Kristallnacht.
After this stunning revelation (and one or two more besides), the author retreats to his hotel where he falls into a frenzy of philosophizing. At this point, the story comes off the rails, as Herter goes wild linking Hegel, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, St. Anselm, Wittgenstein, Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, Pythagoras, the composer Wagner, and Nietzsche in numbing attempt to prove that Hitler was the "incarnation of Nothingness, a zero; just as zero multiplied by any number is zero, [he] consumed and destroyed whatever he touched." All of which leads in turn to a bizarre linkage of the madness of Nietzsche coinciding with the birth of Hitler in some form of transfer of spirit. This hyper-intellectualism crossed with ghost story betrays the first two-thirds of the book and comes across as a bad highbrow stab at Stephen King. Altogether, a bit of a disappointment.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Hitlerian codswallop July 26 2011
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Given Harry Mulisch's personal background (son of a German-Austrian banker and a Jewish Dutch mother, who was spared being shipped to a concentration camp, or worse, by his collaborationist father's connections), it is natural that in his fiction Mulisch was obsessed with the Nazi episode. Here he tackles the most bewitching and bewildering Nazi-related topic: Hitler himself.

Mulisch starts by proclaiming Hitler "the most enigmatic human being of all time" - someone who cannot be grasped logically or historically. Further, "[h]e can't be explained with psychology; you need theology instead." I can sort of accept that. But Mulisch decides to transcend the limitations of reason and history and capture the essence of Hitler by approaching him through "some imagined, highly improbable, highly fantastic but not impossible fact" and seeing what that tells him about Hitler's underlying reality. In SIEGFRIED, that crucial imagined fact is Hitler's son (named, of course, Siegfried), who was secretly birthed by Eva Braun on Kristallnacht in 1938, and then entrusted for raising to a young Viennese couple who had been transferred to the Berchtesgarden. Mulisch's story of the young Siegfried adds an additional layer of ghastly inhumanity to the historical Adolf Hitler.

And what does this conceit reveal about Hitler? For Mulisch, as he proceeds with his imaginative alchemy, he learns that Hitler was a "singularity in human form" - "surrounded by the black hole of his retinue". Alternatively, he is, among human beings, what the number zero is among numbers - something that is a natural number but through multiplication by which destroys every other number. Mulisch follows his alchemic thought experiment further, leading him to the realization that "Hitler was from the very beginning the manifestation of the Totally Other: the zeroing Zero incarnate, the living singularity, who of necessity would become visible only as a mask." Approaching the matter slightly differently, Mulisch traces a sort of linearity from Schopenhauer to Wagner to Nietzsche to Hitler. The connection between the latter two was particularly close: Hitler was conceived in July 1888 - exactly at the moment when Nietzsche began to go mad; both Nietzsche and Hitler lived to the same age - fifty-six; "Nietzsche's madness lasted exactly as long as Hitler's time in power: twelve years." Grand conclusion? "[W]ith Hitler we are dealing with something like a metanatural phenomenon * * * . Except that he was not an extraterrestrial creature but an extraexistential being: Nothingness."

It probably is obvious that I regard all this as hifalutin twaddle. To the extent that Mulisch makes any sense at all, he seems to view Hitler as an Anti-Christ who mesmerized a credulous, malleable Germany and led it pied-piper-like to the progressive cataclysm of World War II. In other words, for Mulisch, without Hitler neither WWII nor the Holocaust could possibly have happened. I, however, am not willing to let the German nation off the hook so easily and exonerate it of everything save gullible lemminghood.

If you read SIEGFRIED purely for the "story", ignoring or skipping the alchemistic divination of Hitler's essence, it is a so-so novel, perhaps meriting three stars. All the pseudo-metaphysical rubbish, however, drags it down to two.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Does not reach all the way... May 10 2006
By isala - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is perhaps a bit more complex and deep than most readers, including I, are used to.
I think he bases his book on a quote from Nietzsche: "When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." That is what the protagonist of the book does, and pays a frightening price for enlightment.
Mulisch actually comes very close to explaining Hitler, and the nature of evil, in this book. I think many readers are put off by his slightly mystical explanation of the phenomenom of Hitler. However, many more authors have tried to explain Hitler from a purely rational POV and have failed.
Hitler was banal, a blank, a nothing. He only defined himself as a leader. To thrive he was dependent on the unidivded attention of multitudes.
I suppose here is where the book stumbles: Mulisch explains Hitler, but he does not explain his followers! Did Hitler have this ability to hypnotise because anyone could read in their own wishes and fears into Hitler's emptiness?
Also, we will have to remember that towards the end of the book the narraor is not fully reliable (!). His ramblings, while very interesting, about Hitler's mystical connection to Nietzsche - Hitler as the negative opposite of the philosopher - can be seen as the insights of a man already insane.
So, in short, my verdict is that this is an uncomplete masterpiece.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Being Nothingness July 8 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book maybe 5 minutes ago and am so impressed with it. A fasciniating story with a real sting in its tail. I left one star off for the occasional lapses into overwritten philosophy quoting, but it's an intriguing and provoking book

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