Cover Story: HHhH, by Laurent Binet

Once again, the British and American editions of a book have radically different covers. And, as usual, the British cover is better. (At least, I think it’s better.)

Here is the British cover of HHhH, by Laurent Binet, the one I used in my review of the book:

This cover takes a portrait of Reinhard Heydrich, the subject of the book and the target of Operation Anthropoid, and blurs his face. The cover says to me how impossible it is to clearly see the past. Binet agonizes about getting the story right. We can fill in a lot of details with the historic record, but we can’t really know the people behind the history.

The blurring also makes Heydrich just that much more sinister—to me at least. This cover fits the story much better than the American one.

Speaking of, here it is:

This cover removes Heydrich as the focus. The parachutists—no doubt representing the assassins, Gabčik and Kubiš—are tiny figures. The letters of the title are written in what makes me think of Soviet futurism. You have to know what the letters mean in order to catch the meaning. (HHhH stands for “Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich”: Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.) The letters made me think of buildings—but not the medieval buildings of Prague, where the novel/not-novel takes place.

I’m probably over thinking this, but I tend to do that about artwork. I blame the fact that I was raised by an art history major.