Leading Dutch writer Harry Mulisch dies aged 83

Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:30am EDT
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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch writer Harry Mulisch, author of 'The Assault' and 'The Discovery of Heaven', died of cancer Saturday in his Amsterdam home at the age of 83.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte Sunday called his death "a loss for Dutch literature and the Netherlands" while culture minister Halbe Zijlstra said he was the last of the 'Big Three' writers with Gerard Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans, both deceased.

Mulisch was often considered, at least in the Netherlands, a candidate for the Nobel Prize of literature. He wrote more than thirty works and 'The Discovery of Heaven' was named the 'Best Dutch Book Ever' by a jury of newspaper readers in 2007.

Born July 29, 1929 in Haarlem, Mulisch wrote his first major bestseller 'The Assault' about an act of resistance in World War Two, which dared to discuss the questions of wrong and right during the war as several innocent people get killed in retaliation for the death of a collaborator.

The book, published in 1982 when the war-time generation was still healing from its traumas, reflected Mulisch' own war torment as his father had collaborated with the German occupiers while his Jewish mother died in a camp.

The 'Discovery of Heaven' in 1992 is a cerebral work in which he related how God, disappointed with humanity, sends a new envoy to the world in order to restore some moral order.

Mulisch was a lank bespectacled man hardly ever seen without a pipe in his mouth. He was regularly seen in television shows and events and was famous for his early self-publicity stunts. As a young writer, he would call the then trendy Americain Hotel at the central Leidseplein square, and ask for Mr Mulisch. A member of staff would then call around "telephone for Mr. Mulisch" and thereby make publicity for his name.

(Reporting by Marcel Michelson; Editing by Jon Hemming)