The Ascent

Stefan Hertmans


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


Fiction > General

ISBN: 978178303065


In the first year of the new millennium, a book came into my hands from which I learned that for twenty years I had lived in the house of a former SS man.

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

In 1979, Stefan Hertmans fell in love with a beautiful dilapidated old house in Ghent in Belgium, which he lovingly 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 relaxed in its rooms with his family. This shocking discovery sends Hertmans off to the archives and to interview next of kin, to uncover the secrets of the house and 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.

Translated from the Dutch by David McKay

Praise for War and Turpentine:

All the marking of a future classic’ – Neel Mukherjee

Staggering richness of language. Mesmerising from page one’ – Simon Schama

Masterpiece, an accolade often casually bestowed, really does describe this magnificent book’ – Sunday Times

A powerful and humane reminder that the horrors of the past century are inexhaustibly fascinating and reverberate today’ – Observer

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Additional information

Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 25 × 17 × 8 cm