After reading The Assault by Harry Mulishch, about Anton Steenwijk’s experience in 1945 during World War II and coping with the memories of the traedy for the rest of his life, I am left somewhat shocked. Due to the assignation of Fake Ploeg, a Nazi Collaborator, and the body being planted in front of Anton’s house, the Nazis took revenge by killing Anton’s mother, father, and brother and torching their home. The emotional chaos happening at the young age of twelve during this incident follows Anton the rest of his life.
Throughout reading the book you notice that in all the episodes a new piece for puzzle is revealed for further reason into the actions of the night in 1945, and more and more we see Anton slowly grow a little unstable as he tries to rationalize every last detail. To me this makes him seem irrational, the way he takes to the information, never getting to upset or letting it effect his life as it is now. Anton analyzes everything he comes in contact with, people, objects, and actions.
The way every last detail is noted resembles a semi-obsession with the way everything works; going back to is habit of rationalizing. When a new person brought into light not a single characteristic is left out when describing them he creates a perfect image in your head, making everything realistic like you are experiencing right along with Anton. Most memorable to me is when he describes watching Schultz die, and how Anton can remember the blood stained man laying in the street thirty something years later.
Reading him depict everything makes me think he is searching for something, but isn’t sure what he’s looking for yet and won’t stop until he does, which in the end I believe when he finds out the reasoning behind the moving of Fake’s body is he really satisfied. The motifs, I noticed, always appear during times when Anton is reminded of the killing of his parents and brother. The stones first appear as he describes the path entrance to his house, leading him to security.
The ashes are the piles of unanswered questions for his past, which he must walk through and clean up before he can be satisfied. The dice are with the night of the assault, and later trigger a sudden outburst of Anton. All he hears that it was just by chance Fake ended up at his house and the Nazis reacted how they did, its all a gamble. These three along with the pure darkness found in the book create the gloomy worrying mood to the readers. From reading this book I got out that the growing up during a war time and facing tragic events never really leave you alone.
You will always continue to learn more, whether you accept it or not, and you will always hear different sides of the story. Escaping your past is impossible, for it is your past that plans out your future because your future is unknown; “one could die at any moment”( ). Reading this also left me a little confused for myself, how would I react to the circumstance Anton faced? Would I be as rational as him? Overall, I really enjoyed this book and found it very inspiring and the best summer reading book I have read yet.