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HHhH and the value of print

But in the Sudetenland, news of the Anschluss provokes an extraordinary enthusiasm. Suddenly people talk only of their ultimate fantasy: being reunited with the Reich… Beneš will write in his memoirs that he was stunned by this mystical romanticism that seemed to suddenly seize all the Germans of Bohemia.

He [Hitler] was reportedly seen throwing himself to the floor and chewing the edge of the carpet. Among people still hostile to Nazism, these demented fits quickly earned him the name Teppichfresser (Carpet Eater). Laurent Binet, HHhH.

HHhH is the story of Reinhard Heydrich’s assassination in 1942. Or rather, it’s the story of the assassination and the story of writing the story. Depicting monstrous characters like Heydrich, Himmler and Göring is difficult. We enjoy reading grotesque scenes in the same way we enjoy reading horror, while we ignore the artifice, selection and judgement involved in writing history (or historical fiction), and the fact that something incredibly evil really happened. This is fiction that isn’t just fiction.

While reading HHhH I came across this comprehensive review of the research into the differences between reading from paper and screens. It’s fascinating stuff, and I liked the melancholic tone.

HHhH is the first book I’ve paid for on my Kindle, apart from a volume of Emily Dickinson. Poetry takes a lot of care to set on an ereader, more than was put into my downloaded edition.

I’m perhaps old enough to feel a difference in the value of print and ereader novels. It doesn’t really matter when you’re downloading tons of free, old stuff, but when you pay six quid you miss the weight of a physical book. I also found it brings the abstract nature of an ebook to the fore. I feel a little cheated when I cough up for what’s essentially a series of 1s and 0s.