The Ascent

Stefan Hertmans


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Vintage Publishing
10 November 2022
ISBN: 9781787303065
384 pages

From the publisher

The dazzling new novel from the author of the modern classic War and Turpentine.

In 1979, Stefan Hertmans fell in love with a dilapidated old house in Ghent in Belgium, which he rescued from decay as it became 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 and chilling case study for the cruel and perverse mentality of the Nazis.

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

Translated from the Dutch by David McKay

Praise for War and Turpentine

'All the marking of a future classic.' Neel Mukherjee, Guardian

'Staggering richness of language. Mesmerising from page one'. Simon Schama

'Masterpiece, an accolade often casually bestowed, really does describe this magnificent book.' Sunday Times, Book of the Year

'Hertmans writes with an eloquence reminiscent of W.G. Sebald... a masterly book.' New York Times, 10 Best Books of the Year