Stefan Hertmans

The Ascent

The Ascent

A house can have many secrets


The dazzling new novel by Stefan Hertmans, author of the modern classic War and Turpentine.

'Magnificent' Philippe Sands
'Powerful and humane' Observer
'An utterly masterly book' Jonathan Coe

In 1979, Stefan Hertmans fell in love with a dilapidated old house in Ghent, Belgium, which he restored to become his peaceful sanctuary. Now, all these years later, he learns that a bust of Hitler once sat on the mantelpiece, and a war criminal and his family relaxed in its rooms.

This shocking discovery sends Hertmans off to the archives, to uncover the secrets of the house and to reimagine this man's life and expose the atrocities he's responsible for. We see Willem Verhulst as a weak, narcissistic man who climbed high in the ranks of the SS; a fascinating case study for the cruel and perverse mentality of the Nazis.

The Ascent portrays the deep tragedy of Flemish collaboration during the Second World War, as Hertmans masterfully brings history and the house to life, imagining individual lives to tell the greater European story.

Translated from the Dutch by David McKay

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