‘Met zijn rug naar de toekomst’ - Harry Mulisch als historicus van de Tweede Wereldoorlog | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 14, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1384-5829
  • E-ISSN: 2352-118X


The Dutch literary writer Harry Mulisch has an ongoing project of reflecting on the nature of historiography. In several essays he opposed the narrative reconstruction of the historian to the experience of the historical moment itself. History recreates the past as a closed ‘then’, whereas literature can recreate the past in a new kind of ‘present’. In this article Sander Bax relates Mulisch’ philosophical ideas on historiography to the theses of Frank Ankersmit on the sublime experience of the past. His concept of traumatic experience of historical moments seems to fit quite well with the way Mulisch writes on historical moments in some of his novels. Bax proposes new interpretations of [The stone bridal bed, 1959] and De aanslag [The assault, 1982]. In both cases Mulisch uses the novel to portray characters that experience the past as traumatic. Norman Corinth’s role in the bombing of Dresden has turned him into a traumatic figure () and Anton Steenwijk’s seperation from his parents in 1945 has made his whole life fractured (). Mulisch not only portrays the psychological development of these characters, he also foregrounds them as fictional characters by using a mythical style of writing. In that sense they are part human, part character. By doing this, Mulisch lays bare the problems of linguistic representation of reality. On the one hand he tries to bring the reader closer to the historical event, on the other hand he reflects on the impossibility of literature to close that gap.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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