Harry Mulisch - The Stone Bridal Bed
In The Stone Bridal Bed Harry Mulisch describes what J.M. Coetzee has called ‘the peculiarly male pleasure in violation, a joy in destruction that is to be found as much among Homer’s Greeks as among the American airmen who bombed Dresden’. The Stone Bridal Bed takes the form of a classical tragedy, complete with Homeric songs chronicling the epic struggle.
Thirteen years after the war, Norman Corinth, a dentist from Baltimore, returns to the German city of Dresden, destroyed in a firestorm ignited by Allied bombing. Corinth took part in that bombing as an aerial gunner and did not come through unscathed; his face still bears traces of burns he suffered when his plane was shot down.
Mulisch ingeniously links the taking of the city with the taking of a woman, Hella, with whom Corinth has a brief affair. She is the embodiment of the mythical Helen, whose abduction led to the Trojan War and who, like Troy, was destroyed and abandoned. Lust and the desire for conquest lead Corinth to a bridal bed that – once the fire of passion has cooled – turns into a stone-cold tomb.
The Second World War has strongly influenced Harry Mulisch’s thinking and writing, as demonstrated by the way he draws on the Eichmann trial in The Case 40/61 (1962), the German occupation of The Netherlands in The Assault (1985) and, more recently, the figure of Hitler’s fictional son in Siegfried (2003).
Harry Mulisch (1927-2010) was born to a Jewish mother and a half-German, half-Austrian father who divorced his wife in 1937. His father was joint director of a banking firm that acted as a repository for stolen Jewish funds. ‘I didn’t so much “experience” the war,’ Mulisch once famously wrote, ‘I am the Second World War.’
- ‘Mulisch is a rarity for these times – an instinctively psychological novelist.’ – John Updike, The New Yorker
- ‘Harry Mulisch belongs to the first rank of Dutch novelists of his generation.’ – J.M.Coetzee