Character by F. Bordewijk

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Katadreuffe is an illegitimate child, raised in a Rotterdam slum, but lucky in the character of his mother, who is independent, self-respecting, and austere to the point of rejecting the repeated proposals of the boy's father to marry her, or simply to help her with money. The man in question is a force of nature, violent as a matter of policy, grasping, ruthless, and full of resource. Young Katadreuffe joins a firm of lawyers as a kind of superior office-boy, and is seized with the romance of business and the practice of law. He undertakes to educate himself, and enjoys the consideration of the senior members of the firm, but they make no allowances for him; handsome, intelligent, and severe, he is his mother's son, and no man may offer to help him. He is his father's son, too, and he means to prevail. At every stage of his progress, he encounters his father's secret opposition, and manages to overcome it. In one tremendous scene, Katadreuffe confronts his father in his place of business. The older man takes a large clasp-knife from his pocket and offers it to his outraged son, who drives the point of the weapon into the heavy desk that separates them.
Besides being the anatomy of a successful man, who achieves status in his profession and the esteem of his colleagues, the portrait of Katadreuffe's character details those traits that are negative and sterile: the absence or the atrophy of a warm heart, the absence of love (though he has been loved), and the unrelenting will that in the last pages of the novel he recognizes as his kinship with the father he has abjured.

About F. Bordewijk

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F. Bordewijk wrote more than forty books and in 1953 was awarded the Dutch State Prize for literature. A lawyer himself, he appears to have put much of his own experience into Character, the best known of his novels.
Published December 1, 1966 by Peter Owen Publishers. 286 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Dutch writer Bordewijk makes a first US appearance with a novel originally published in 1938 and the most popular of the 40-odd books that he wrote: the story of a son who makes his way in the business world despite the efforts of his father to destroy him.

Jun 20 1990 | Read Full Review of Character

Publishers Weekly

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Its slow-and-steady narrative follows Jacob Katadreuffe, illegitimate son of a fiercely principled mother and ruthless debt-collector father, from infancy to his adult attainment of ``character.'' Born into humble surroundings and scantily educated, young Katadreuffe applies himself to surmountin...

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Boston Review

The question of his character is posed for the audience by the magistrate: did Jakob Katadreuffe murder Bailiff Dreverhaven?

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