F. Bordewijk - Character
Character tells the story of Katadreuffe, a clerk struggling to work his way up in society. He opens a shop, only to be made bankrupt by the formidable bailiff Dreverhaven, his own father. Every time success comes within reach, his father blocks his way. When Katadreuffe finally achieves his ambition of becoming a lawyer, he refuses to shake his father’s hand: he will not accept congratulations from a father who has ‘worked against him’ his whole life. Slowly, clearly, hoarsely yet gently, Dreverhaven says: ‘Or worked for you.’
Character is a masterful story about the dark side of a father-son relationship. It is also a portrait of the city in which it is set, pre-war Rotterdam. There is a gruesome magnificence to the episodes in which Dreverhaven lives up to his frightening reputation. Bordewijk shows the bestial side of his characters and attributes human characteristics to houses and lanes. This novel is considered the best of Bordewijk’s books. Even after sixty years it has not lost any of its freshness, its literary qualities, or its profoundly human message.
Ferdinand Bordewijk (1884-1965) is one of the most important exponents of the style of 20th Dutch literature known as new objectivism. His work is characterized by concealed emotion expressed in an eminently terse style. From the thirties onwards he wrote highly imaginative hyperrealist Dutch prose in novels and collections including Blocks (1931), The Gas Light (1947), The Oaks from Dódóny (1946), and Northern Light (1948). Over the past couple of years, after garnering praise from European critics and readers, an increasing number of Bordewijk’s books have started to appear in translation.
- ‘Bordewijk was such a great writer that he didn’t need to state explicitly that the seeds of the child’s bankruptcy were contained in his parents’ resentment. This notion is implicit throughout the book. The novel is as topical as ever. It is timeless.’ - NRC Handelsblad
- ‘Nothing less than a masterpiece. A very impressive book, still topical after forty years.’ - De Volkskrant