With great risk comes great reward.
Starting from the idea that the "truth" is impossible to get at, let alone represent in writing, Laurent Binet has written HHhH - a book he refers to as an "infranovel" - which is part biography, part history, part espionage thriller, and pure entertainment. Binet's ingenious mélange is focused primarily on the life and 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a notoriously cruel senior official in Hitler's SS. While charting Heydrich's rise to power, Binet also tells the story of Jozef Gabčik and Jan Kubiš, two men selected by the splintered and besieged Czech intelligence group to parachute into Czechoslovakia to kill Heydrich. Throughout the book's 257 sections, Binet hyperactively shuttles back and forth between relating the historical aspects of his story and detailing the prodigious amounts of research he's done, while describing in a disarmingly chatty and passionately enthusiastic tone the bits that he's had to leave out, as well as elements - such as dialogue or a character's subjective experience - that he's been forced to make up in order to do justice to his characters and their story. What redeems Binet's brazen gambit in crossing all these boundaries is his unabashed, almost gushingly romanticized love for the heroism of Gabčik and Kubiš, for Czechoslovakia and its history of resistance, and for the chance to tell a story that's captivated him since he was a child. That risk pays off in a gripping, all-too-true work of fiction that will undoubtedly rank as one of the best books of this year.
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