Jan De Hartog Anthony Boucher - Essay

Anthony Boucher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The Inspector"] is a novel about a police inspector that is not a detective story, a novel about international pursuit and intrigue that is not a thriller, and a novel about 1946 that is as contemporary and immediate as the latest headlines about Adolf Eichmann….

[Jan de Hartog] has looked at the world about him and chosen dramatic and even melodramatic events as the proper material for a sober and touching novel of the human condition in that world. (p. 4)

This is not, in the common sense, a suspense story: the tone is subdued, the pursuit (physical and spiritual) runs relaxed at times to permit scenes of quiet charm or subtle sadness. But de Hartog's intense concern for his characters sustains an unflagging pitch of interest. We are involved with Jongman as a complex and many-dimensioned person. (pp. 4, 20)

The lesser personages are not characterized with such depth; but de Hartog's instinct for the theatre … makes them as brilliantly vivid as perfectly played bit roles in a well-integrated production. A disruptive cleaning woman, a crusty barge captain, an ambivalent British agent, a powerful Arab seaman—each is, for his brief appearance, a completely alive individual. Jan de Hartog has written a moving and admirable novel, not so much of the terror and violence as of people in a terrible and violent world. (p. 20)

Anthony Boucher, "Not in the Line of Duty," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1960 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 26, 1960, pp. 4, 20.