The AscentStefan Hertmans
The dazzling new novel by the author of the modern classic War and Turpentine
In the summer of 1979, Stefan Hertmans fell in love with a dilapidated house in Ghent. He rescued it from decay and it became his peaceful sanctuary. Decades on, 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 to the archives, where he uncovers the secrets of the house and the atrocities committed by its former owner Willem Verhulst. Drawing on the historical record and interviews with Verhulst's family, Hertmans reimagines the life of a weak, narcissistic man who climbed the ranks of the SS. Hertmans also uncovers the marital drama that took place in the house: Verhulst's commitment to the SS was at odds with the outlook of his wife, a deeply religious pacifist.
The Ascent is an immersive tale of war, family and individual fate, in which Hertmans demonstrates his mastery at spinning a personal story into an epic narrative.