One of his five best books about life in the theatre, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Last CallRead about the other books on the list.
by Harry Mulisch (1985)
In this remarkable novel the great Dutch author, who died in 2010, approaches his obsessively repeated subject of World War II from an unusual angle: An obscure old cabaret artist is recruited by an avant-garde company to play a Prospero-like figure in "Hurricane," a new play modeled after Shakespeare's "The Tempest." A newspaper interviewer discovers that the old man happily performed for the Nazis during the war and that he expresses no regret for it; he is nonetheless allowed to continue with the play. His motives and personality are more and more complexly delineated as the novel becomes a meditation on art and theater, on aging and on transcendence, incorporating as it goes reflections on the "Fushikaden," the great 15th-century Japanese acting manual. Finally, and sublimely, the novel modulates into a re-creation of a farewell performance of "The Tempest" by a great Dutch actor, until the Shakespearean echoes that have proliferated throughout the book reach a kind of ecstatic culmination. It is an extraordinary novel, hallucinatory in parts but hallucinatory in the way the stage can sometimes be, a series of bewitching and unsettling illusions that bespeak profound truths.
See--Simon Callow's six best books.