Harry Mulisch - Archibald Strohalm
On publication of his debut novel Archibald Strohalm in 1951, Harry Mulisch was immediately recognized a great literary talent and new voice in post-war Dutch literature. This highly imaginative story with its bizarre characters set the tone for Mulisch’s extraordinary career. He distinguished himself in the midst of the prevailing literary realism by his abstract-realist style, which clearly had the capacity to speak to an international readership.
The novel can be seen as a declaration of principle concerning the rejuvenation of art and literature. The main character is an inconspicuous young man who finds himself daily annoyed by an elderly puppeteer and the sombre shows, inspired by Christianity, that he performs on the market square. Strohalm becomes convinced that he has enough talent to challenge the puppeteer with a stimulating tale that will set audiences thinking. His struggle to describe the fullness of life in all its complexity drives him insane, making him an object of ridicule. Strohalm comes to grief, but not before he has succeeded in exposing the narrow-mindedness of his fellow citizens.
Archibald Strohalm was an astonishing debut. Mulisch later said that by writing it he freed himself from the fears and uncertainties that afflict any young artist. Selfassured and formidably productive, he developed a talent for making an irresistible story bear the weight of primal myths, vital questions, literary references and philosophy, including the philosophy of science.
Harry Mulisch (1927-2010) is one of the greatest authors of modern Dutch literature. Archibald Strohalm marks the start of a sequence of more than twenty novels, short-story collections and plays, all of which derive their power from a refined balance between mythological, magical and psychological motifs. His magnum opus The Discovery of Heaven (1992) was voted the best Dutch novel of all time, prompting the international press to compare Mulisch with giants such as Homer, Dante and Thomas Mann.
- ‘Simply a must.’ – Frankfurter Neue Presse