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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary fiction from the Netherlands
DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN. Full appreciation of this novel may require a firm grasp of the difference between what is ambiguous and what is absurd. The book is about the interplay between the two and how they are mediated to the consciousness by meaning. That is, the novel asks us whether we want to stress the reality of madness or the madness of reality. Onno and Max are bosom...
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Alekos

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Plot. Wonderfully written. But,...
I found it a struggle to continuously overlook the misogynist, elitist attitude. The main male characters, Onno and Max, have a style of intellectual banter that I enjoy to participate in. But the character of the boy child Quinten is just too much. A child with an intellect of an adult smells of an adult author assigning pretensions to a child. And of course that's...
Published on Dec 1 2002 by robyn _222


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary fiction from the Netherlands, Feb. 17 2004
By 
Alekos (Cancun, Quintana Roo Mexico) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN. Full appreciation of this novel may require a firm grasp of the difference between what is ambiguous and what is absurd. The book is about the interplay between the two and how they are mediated to the consciousness by meaning. That is, the novel asks us whether we want to stress the reality of madness or the madness of reality. Onno and Max are bosom friends and Onno takes up with Ada after Max destroys his own relationship with her by some words of amazing crudeness. Ada's pregnancy is clothed in doubt as to which of the two men is the father of the extraordinarily beautiful child born while she is in a coma following an auto accident. Max is the scientist-astronomer while Onno is the linguist paleographer. They and their conversations are brilliant if never quite serious. Quinten, Ada's child, is brought up by Max and Ada's mother, Sophia. These two have a sexual liaison lacking in several of the features that would make it an affair. After failing in politics and in linguistics, Onno drops out of life and ordinary reality and disappears, while Max finds something like an answer to the question of the origin of the universe and then gets zapped into eternity by a meteorite. Quinten goes on the archetypal quest for his father, (is Onno really his father?) which is the symbolic quest for God or the idea of God. His mother, in a coma seventeen years and a living sign of death, is nearly unknown to him. Symbolically he turns his back on "mother nature," on the corruption of nature from which new life springs in never ending cycles, and he undertakes the search for meaning.
Those of us who think our prime obligation in life is to grow progressively out of the ignorance into which we were born sometimes ask ourselves if the seemingly endless task is really worth it. Our ignorant associates and rellies seem to be no less "happy" than we whose main thrust is the acquisition of culture. But every now and then we receive a surprise reward for our efforts, like when we read a novel grounded solidly in ideas, culture, science, art, spirituality, one whose plot contains a wealth of examples of ambiguity or absurdity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Oct. 11 2010
By 
Kieran Fox (Alam al-Mithal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
I won't spend a lot of time here because there are many in-depth reviews. Overall though this is an excellent book, very well written (even in translation), very clever, with two great protagonists and some incredibly deep ideas scattered throughout (e.g., the historioscope). It does start to drag halfway through when the pace slows way down - but then, can anyone think of a 700+ page novel where that isn't the case? It gradually picks up again and becomes once more inspiring, thought-provoking and hilarious. I give four stars only because, as another reviewer mentioned, the ending just... well, fails. Again, as with so many long and wonderful works, it is difficult to build up to a satisfying climax. A very original voice, though. A book well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite, Ever., May 23 2003
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
This book is fantastic because it never, not once, talks down to the reader. Sometimes, yes, it talks above you. But, not in a baddish way. It's more with a wink and a nod to let you know that they know that you know....everyone is let in on the joke. Brilliant and quick and witty and fun and seriously meaningful. My favorite book of all time, without a doubt.
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1.0 out of 5 stars An overrated, hackneyed book., Dec 9 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
A very ambitious attempt at an overview of history and philosophy, but it does not contain anything new for a well-informed reader. The characters are shallow and poorly written, and the story is contrived. It seems to be a compendium of facts and trivia that were on the author's mind. Very overrated, and a tedious book to read, as it is written from a distinctly old-fashioned, European perspective (dead white males). The author makes much of the meaning of the child's existence, but it turns out to be very anticlimactic--his mission, which rightly doesn't even rate much mention in the book, as much as it is ballyhooed beforehand, is hardly worth the effort that went into producing him. All very overblown and dull. I consider this book to have been a waste of time and money.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great Plot. Wonderfully written. But,..., Dec 1 2002
By 
robyn _222 (Hannover Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
I found it a struggle to continuously overlook the misogynist, elitist attitude. The main male characters, Onno and Max, have a style of intellectual banter that I enjoy to participate in. But the character of the boy child Quinten is just too much. A child with an intellect of an adult smells of an adult author assigning pretensions to a child. And of course that's exactly what happened.
But the worst part is when the author's opinion of women becomes clear and we see what sort of character the women possess. We have one musician = Ada, one librarian = Helga and a housewife = Sophia. Not one of them enjoys any intellectual discussion, not one of them is evident as having an original thought and all of them are quite at home cleaning or cooking in the kitchen.
P. 50 Onno speaking with Ada
"Aha," he said, and went over to her. "Woman's intuition." He hugged her clumsily. "Sorry about that. Women have everything - brains, feeling, willpower - but only men have intuition. That's why there's no female creation of any importance, and that isn't because they've always been confined to the kitchen, because even the best cooks are men. One is forced reluctantly to accept the fact. But they can do one thing that men can't do, and that is give birth to men. That's more than enough."
P. 418
Sophia looked at the paper pattern that she was pinning to a piece of cloth. Max and Onno could see that she had to concentrate for a moment: these kinds of conversations tended to pass her by. Probably, she thought it was all boyish nonsense.
P. 453
While Sophia and Helga were busy in the kitchen, as in Onno's view befitted women, the gentlemen went on talking about the subject of "historical astronomy" founded by Quinten.
Of course such women existed. But the story takes place in the early 60's through till the 80's. Excuse me, but this was also the time of outspoken women. Women who no longer went down on their knees before men. No more 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir'. Women who declared that they have always had an intellectual and cultural history independent to that of man. And all that Harry Mulisch can come up with is these three women!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Novel of ideas well done, but little character, June 4 2002
By 
Frank Lynch "frank_lynch" (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
.
Mulisch's design for this book is grand; not quite as grand as the ideas that fall within its scope, but since these ideas are in the realm of "what caused the universe?" that's OK.
What we have is a plot where demi-gods/angels are disgusted with the scientific/rational progress of humanity, and work to separate their mystery from us. To do that, a sequence of genetic pairings and unlikely events have been contrived, to allow for the arrival of the Very Special Character. We, as readers, watch the pairings and events. Along the way, we have a number of very clever treatments of the Big Idea, both in the internal musings of characters, and discussions between them. The Big Idea is discussed in theology, history, physics, astronomy, architecture, art... It all gets a fairly thorough hashing through.
The problem I have with this book, however, is not that the events feel contrived (I have fun suspending my belief every Christmas, watching "It's A Wonderful Life"), nor is it that discussion gets 'heady' some times... But in the end, I felt I knew more about the characters' thoughts than I knew about the characters themselves. I didn't feel as if I read that much about how characters behaved towards each other, not enough to get a sense of who the characters were. We get some characterizations, but the Very Special Character remains shallow, with no childhood friends or enemies; we never see him in school or developing with any broader world outside the building in which he grows up. The adults around him never talk about anything besides the Big Issues. Certainly, Mulisch did a great job of presenting their musings, and their most serious thoughts, but there's a lot of incidental life which fell under his radar screeen (perhaps beneath his scope?), and I didn't feel as if these characters were people. To contrast, think of any of the "Baltimore" films from Barry Levinson, and how the incidental, non-plot dialogues make us feel like we know his characters; or Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon", where characters indulge themselves to search out Cape Town for katjap. Certainly, there are some incidental details here and there in Mulisch's book, but not enough to really round out these characters. For Mulisch, the idea is the thing; for me, that's not enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is now the best book I've read, EVER, April 16 2002
By 
Bart Louwagie (Holmes, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
For a long time I kept saying that "A Man" from Oriana Fallaci was the best book I ever read. "The Disovery of Heaven" goes way beyond that and for very different qualities and reasons. The author's combination of intelligence, knowledge, wit and fantasy is simply mindblowing. You'll need some time to read it, but what a quality time at it; from the european-jewish history, over marxist and capitalistic paradoxes, astrology and theology, to devine intervention, mixed with characters that are so real and yet so far out. I was often thinking about "could one make this book into a movie?" and my answer is "one movie: no way; it would have to be a couple of movies at least to be able to translate the richness of the story". With this I do not think the book is complex or hard to read at all; I typically can not stand books that make it hard to keep track of who's who and has done what; there is none of that. I've I'd sell the book I'd give satisfaction guaranteed or money back, to book is too good to return; even after having read it all. I only regret one thing: "not having read it slower so I'd still be reading it today" Maybe I'll have to start all over. </P>
PS "A Man" IS a good book (if you can find it)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Discovery of Heaven- person.identification, Oct. 30 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
This book spoke to me on many levels. I was raised in Amsterdam, spent time in Auschwitz, new people similar to those described - I think Mulisch is one of the great writers of our time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Four and a half stars actually, Oct. 29 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
With 'The Discovery of Heaven' Mulisch is like an Olympic diver who attempts the most difficult dive imaginable and nearly nails it. Rarely are philosophy, theology, architecture and a host of other subjects presented so vividly in fiction. The introduction to the sweep of Mulisch's thought in the first third of the book left me giddy, not unlike how one feels upon meeting someone whose conversation challenges you to reexamine assumptions from airier heights. Nevertheless, at several of the book's turning points Mulisch seemed somewhat heavy-handed in the way he stretched the work's inner logic. Perhaps he is asking the reader not only to suspend disbelief but to step out of the boat in faith. There's a long stretch in the middle of the book where Mulisch sketches a bit too much detail in preparation for a final crescendo. However, faithful readers who forge ahead will be rewarded. While Mulisch's epic could not quite sustain its page-turning headiness from cover to cover, when I look back at the sparkling insights that Mulisch shared and how this novel covered perhaps more thematic ground than any novel I can recall in the last twenty years, I am left with awe and gratitude for what Mulisch conveyed along the way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An odd mix of nature and artifice, Aug. 21 2001
This review is from: The Discovery of Heaven (Paperback)
Overall, I would recommend this book. Mulisch creates a story of two friends whose lives are connected by fate and the workings of angels which is very engaging. It is also a very erudite book, and one puts it down feeling one has learned much about politics, religion, even archaeology and astronomy. But its ending fails to satisfy. After several hundred pages of what seems to be a very realistic story (with the exception of the angels' conversations) the ending is a bit too fantastic. (I won't say anything about it in case you actually enjoy the surprise.) It seemed tacked on to serve some extra-literary purpose; Mulisch seems to be pressing too much of a message on us. When I finished it, I was a little irritated and felt cheated, but now that a few months have passed, it's all the things that I enjoyed that have stayed with me.
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The Discovery of Heaven
The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch (Paperback - Oct. 31 1997)
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