First Lines: Karakter

Jacob Willem Katadreuffe, the hero of F. Bordewijk’s literary classic Karakter, is—excuse the pun—a bit of a character. Just like his mother, he is stubborn and not willing or able to accept charity, favors, or a helping hand. And you can blame his father as well. That man definitely is a piece of work. He is a bailiff, a loan shark and a slumlord, all rolled up into one. Okay, so he wanted to do ‘the right thing’ and marry miss Katadreuffe after he knocked her up, but, as I said, she does not take well to favors. So she turned him down, and raised the kid on her own, making sure he would earn his place in the world on his own.

And that, that is just about what the novel is all about: a young man having to figure it out all by himself. He has to overcome his upbringing in near impoverishment, several attempts to bankrupt him, and the role his father plays in his life. Despite not being a particularly easy read—written and set in the interbellum, Karakter is most definitely a product of its time—I had a pretty good time and sped through it in about a week.

You can peruse Karakter at the digitale bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse letteren.

Book read
F. Bordewijk — Karakter
First line
In het zwartst van den tijd, omtrent Kerstmis, werd op de Rotterdamsche kraamzaal het kind Jacob Willem Katadreuffe 1) met de sectio caesarea ter wereld geholpen.

1) Deze naam op zijn Nederlandsch uit te spreken.