Character building


From signandsight, again, Cees Nooteboom on a classic of Dutch literature:


I know of no other book whose characters keep each other in such a stranglehold of withheld information, until it seems as if the story itself is being played out in a cocoon of silence…

The book is Karakter, by Ferdinand Bordewijk (1938), a merciless study of a father-son relationship played out amid the mean, and now vanished, streets of pre-war Rotterdam. The cover shown above is from the current Dutch edition, the 40th. Whether it “misses the quintessence of the book”, as Nooteboom feels, or not, I can’t say, but it made me read his article, and it would certainly make me pick the book up in a bookshop. Peter Owen published a translation in 1966, now unfortunately out-of-print , which I’d like to get hold of.

More about Karakter at the excellent site of the NLPVF [The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature].


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