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Karakter
F. Bordewijk
publisher: Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 1938

translated as:
Character: A Novel of Father and Son
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1990
translation: E.M. Prince

refered to by:
Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe


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EDIT:
This is a novel from the 1930s, showing all the hard edges and sharp contrasts of an Expressionist painting. Bordewijk wrote a robust, angular style bent on creating types rather than individuals, bare-knuckle conflicts rather than subtle moods or emotions. He was at his best in stories and novels set in hard-nosed industrial worlds where people go to extremes to get their way and meet equally dogged resistance. Unsentimental as it is, Bordewijk’s work also shows that the obsessive pursuit of a single ideal is ultimately impoverishing.

Character has as its subtitle ‘A Novel of Father and Son’, and that sums up the book. But unlike, say, Stijn Streuvels’s The Flaxfield, which acts out a generational conflict against the backdrop of rural Flanders, Character is about a clash of wills, and the setting is urban—Rotterdam in the first decades of the twentieth century, up until the Great Depression.

Bordewijk’s novel tells the story of young Katadreuffe, the illegitimate son of the bailiff Dreverhaven and the servant girl Joba Katadreuffe. Dreverhaven, larger than life, dressed in a long black coat and wearing a wide-rimmed black hat, is a ruthless brute, a seedy character, a miser and man of granite who strikes terror into the poor wretches he kicks out into the street as their homes are repossessed. Although he is used to having his way, he fails to break down the stubborn pride of Ms Katadreuffe, who declines his offer to marry her when the baby is born and refuses to have anything to do with the
child’s father. As the son grows up, the mother is determined he must learn to fend for himself. When he comes of age young Katadreuffe sets up a small business, borrows money, fails miserably and is made bankrupt. Only then does he find out he borrowed from a bank owned by his father, who pursues the son mercilessly. In a gesture of defiance the young man decides to borrow even more money from his father. He wants to build a career in the law and needs money to study. Before he can sit his exams the father bankrupts the son again. Young Katadreuffe goes on regardless, proud, stubborn and unflinching.

As the father turns into a monster of lust and corrupt power who obstructs his son’s progress at every turn, Katadreuffe’s self-discipline and total dedication take him to the top. He triumphs over his father — or so he thinks. During their last meeting, to Katadreuffe’s consternation, Dreverhaven tells him he was actually ‘working for him’ all the time: overcoming the obstacles the father put in his way steeled the son’s character. Too late Katadreuffe recognizes that the lifelong pitched battle with his father has exacted a horrible price: he sacrificed everything, including a budding relationship with the girl of his dreams, for the sake of his career. Having systematically removed every chink in his armour and extinguished every human spark in himself, his single-minded struggle has left him emotionally dead — no better, really, than the heartless monster that is his father.

from: www.babelguides.com

bookweb    
ON F. BORDEWIJK'S BOOKSHELF

NEELTJE LOKERSE
[Bertha van Doorn]
Neeltje Lokerse, 1914

BOOKS BY F. BORDEWIJK:

Character: A Novel of Father and Son
1938
The story of a young man growing up in a Rotterdam slum, where his pluck and intelligence serve him well. Yet all his success comes from the desire to spite his violent, grasping, and ruthless father.
WHAT TO READ AFTER CHARACTER

A COMPLETE FIASCO
[Een ontgoocheling]
Willem Elsschot, 1921

Beyond Sleep
Willem Frederik Hermans, 1966

The Mosquito Coast
Paul Theroux, 1981

NOVELS OF SON AND FATHER
Fathers and Sons
Ivan Turgenev, 1862

Siddhartha
Hermann Hesse, 1922

[Kees graaft zich autobio]
Kees van Kooten, 1979

[De kleine blonde dood]
Boudewijn Büch, 1985

A Father's Affair
Karel Glastra van Loon, 1999

ROTTERDAM BEFORE THE WAR
[Kruimeltje]
Christiaan van Abkoude, 1923

['t Is zo weer nacht]
Joyce Roodnat, 2001

[De wingerdrank]
1937

ON F. BORDEWIJK'S BOOKSHELF

CLASSIC HORROR STORIES
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Edgar Allan Poe, 1833-1849
Doomed heroes in a black-romantic world

The Horla
Guy de Maupassant, 1887
This chilling tale chronicles one man's terrifying descent into paranoia and madness as seen through the increasing intensity of his spell-binding journal entries.

FREUD
The Interpretation of Dreams
Sigmund Freud, 1899
In Freudian interpretation, the analysis of dreams constitutes the key to unlocking the vital secrets of the unconscious mind.

[Fantastische vertellingen]
1919 / 1923 / 1924
The fantastic, yet oddly realistic stories by F. Bordewijk, with whose compact style Hermans felt a great affinity.
ON F. BORDEWIJK'S BOOKSHELF

GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM
Berlin Alexanderplatz
Alfred Döblin, 1929

Class Reunion
Franz Werfel, 1928

THEO VAN DOESBURG
[De zwarte vlek: simultaneistische schets]
Theo van Doesburg, 1916

YEVGENY ZAMYATIN
We
Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1920

[Blokken]
1931

[Knorrende beesten]
1933

[Bint]
1934

[Rood paleis]
1936

[Noorderlicht]
1948

[Bloesemtak]
1955

[Huis te huur]
1999 (collection of stories written between 1937-1951)

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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, info@the-ledge.com
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
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Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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