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In Association with

Jan de Hartog

Jan de Hartog died in September 2002 at the age of 88. I've missed him ever since.

When, after WWII was over, Jan de Hartog returned to Holland and published Gods Geuzen, he discovered that the people there just wanted him to write Hollands Glorie over and over again. There was nothing left for him to do but start anew in another language. That's his story, at least. I'm not so sure—his later books were not exactly what you'd call flops in Dutch.

In an obituary, Dutch television had to say that "he made millions with his books and plays". This is of prime importance to the Dutch. (Jan de Hartog himself writes in The Hospital that everybody may think he's a rich author, but it just ain't so.) The same program tried to put him down by saying something like "he just wrote boys' books for grown-ups". Conveniently forgetting books like The Spiral Road, and lots more, where this does not apply to. Anyway, so did Stevenson, Forester and Mark Twain. They, too, wrote quite other stuff as well. What childish and seemingly willfully ignorant pettiness.

Below are listed the books and plays I know about, left, and their counterparts in English. Plus some comments you'll have to make do with. The funny thing here is that the Dutch never seem to have read the English versions, and, more understandably, vice versa. There are weird differences. Like Vladimir Nabokov, Ome Jan wrote in a foreign language. His Dutch versions get more and more anglicized as years go by; which doesn't matter too much as a lot of it is in Dutch-English sailor slang anyway. Some he never even bothered to translate to Dutch or were translated by others; some, like Mary, he just used as the basis for a really different book The Captain; still others never appeared in English. Correct chronology is very hard to come by, let alone dates of publication. With the gracious help of Marjorie de Hartog we have come pretty close, but I still do not feel these dates are really reliable. It's a mess for detectives, really.

Marjorie de Hartog

An editor's job is a very anonymous one. Kudos to Marjorie de Hartog who has edited all those books. You can be pretty sure that, without her support, Jan would have had a much harder job to make his transition to writing in English. Marjorie must have had a very important hand in the posthumously published A View of the Ocean. Then, she is credited as co-author in De Vlucht which has been written and, as far as I know, published only in Dutch so far.

Like most writers, Jan de Hartog used personal experiences, tidbits of rumors and stories that were told him, in his books. (I certainly hope Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft are exceptions to the rule). It's funny, therefore, that for one of his most unlikable characters (in The Captain) he used the name Peacock, carried by the guy who'd abridged Hollands Glorie when it was published in English as Captain Jan.

Quaker reviewn by
Saul Bass

There's no getting round it, Jan de Hartog was a Quaker and I am an unbeliever. What can you say? Well, maybe something like this:—
The man never gets offensive, like those hated characters who gang up in couples on Sunday mornings and try to intrude the privacy of your home to force-feed you their views on the Bible (their capital letter). Did you ever hear about atheists who went out to pull the same dirty trick?
Interestingly, it seems to become obvious that the gap between believers and unbelievers is unbridgeable. Religious feelings reside in your frontal lobe - I try to explain more about this here. But it does look like the unbelievers have a 70% majority, so stand up and fight!
Having said all that, what a relief to read de Hartog's books on the Quakers and finding less saints in there than in Treasure Island!

Under pseudonym F.R. Eckmar
Detective novels
Een linkerbeen gezocht - 1935
Spoken te koop -1936
Ratten op de trap - 1937
1981 AVRO hoorspel
CD: Nederlands Audiovisueel Archief (NAA)
Drie dode dwergen - 1938
De maagd en de moordenaar - 1939
Jan de Hartog vertelt in De Vlucht dat hij hierin heeft leren schrijven. Dan waren ze toch ergens goed voor.As far as I know, there are no English translations of these.
(Don't bother to learn Dutch to read them.)

Het Huis met de Handen - 1934
Ave Caesar - 1936
Oompje Owadi - 1938
Hollands Glorie - 1940
Over 38 editions, not counting the WWII underground printings.
Dutch television serial in the 1970s starring Hugo Metsers
Captain Jan - 1942, UK
Gods Geuzen - 1947-1949
The Spiral Road - 1957
I - Mission to Borneo
II - Duel with a Witchdoctor
Filmed by Robert Mulligan as The Spiral Road, with Burl Ives and Rock Hudson.
Mulligan filmed it in Suriname with old colonial Dutch types, who were very mad when the film was released, because he had fooled them into re-enacting a colonial party in Batavia, now Jakarta. (They ought to have read the book first).
Stella - Mary - Thalassa - Trilogy-
Stella - 1950
More or less, but only that, the same plot as The Lost Sea.
The Lost Sea I/The Distant Shore I - 1951
First appearance of Marinus Harinxma.
Filmed by Carol Reed as The Key
with Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard and William Holden.
Bloody marvelous movie. Buy it in letterbox only (if you can get it at all).
Mary - 1951
Wie dit in het Nederlands gelezen heeft, zou De Kapitein ook moeten lezen.
Thalassa - 1952
The Lost Sea II/The Distant Shore II - 1952
De Kleine Ark - 1953The Little Ark - 1954
The 1953 Dutch Zeeland floods; later filmed
Scheepspraat - 1958
A Sailor's Life - 1955
The Call of the Sea
contains The Lost Sea, The Distant Shore, and A Sailor's Life
De Kunstenaar - 1959
The Artist - 1963
De Inspecteur - 1961
The Inspector - 1960
Movie Lisa

The Sailing Ship — 1964
De Wateren van de Nieuwe Wereld — 1966
Waters of the New World — 1961
Het Ziekenhuis — 1965
The Hospital — 1964
Disgraceful conditions in Houston, Texas hospital-and what to do about things like that, an exposé much like there are websites in our age to expose landlords who have slum conditions and not beautiful downtown Indianapolis apartments.
De Kapitein — 1967
The Captain — 1966
Based on the Dutch Mary
May be his best book. Sold over a million copies in the USA (for whatever that's worth—Mickey Spillane sold much better).
Like many of de Hartog's books, based upon historic circumstances: the Halifax-Murmansk WWII convoys. Fleet gossip had it that this convoy merely served as a decoy to lure Tirpitz out of hiding, and that ships and crews were callously sacrificed to the purpose of destroying Tirpitz. However, as it happens, he was wrong. Not that I feel that matters; if anything, it makes the book's concept stronger: you did not even get to understand really who or what you were fighting for.
This is what The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea USA has to say about Convoy PQ17:
It sailed from Iceland on 27 June 1942 with a close escort of six destroyers, four corvettes, and two anti-aircraft ships, a close support force of four cruisers and three destroyers, and distant cover by the British Home Fleet. The convoy existed of thirty-six merchant ships and made good progress for the first seven days, passing north of Bear island, between Spitsbergen and the North Cape of Norway on 3 July. On this date the British Admiralty received intelligence that two German pocket-battleships, the Scheer and Lützow, had sailed from Norvik bound for Altenfiord, a temporary base in the far North of Norway.
Further intelligence came in the same day that the battleship Tirpitz and the heavy cruiser Hipper had sailed from Trondheim, bound for the northward. It appeared to the British Admiralty that these heavy ships could only be gathering in the far north for an attack on PQ17, and a quick calculation indicated that they could reach the convoy during the night of 4 July.
U-boat and air attacks on the convoy began on 4 July, but were beaten off with the loss of three merchant ships. It was appreciated in the Admiralty that the distant cover of the Home Fleet was much too far to the westward to intervene if the German surface ships attacked, and also that the close support ships and the close escort, four cruisers and nine destroyers, were no match for the guns of the Tirpitz and the pocket-battleships. On the assumption that these ships had already sailed, the Admiralty ordered the convoy to scatter and the close support force to withdraw to the westward as ordered. Unfortunately, the six destroyers of the escort force, believing from the Admiralty signal that an action with the German ships was imminent, accompanied the support force and also withdrew westward in the expectation of providing much needed support to the cruisers in the coming battle. Although no enemy appeared, they remained with the support force throughout the night.
In fact the Tirpitz, Scheer and Hipper (the Lützow ran aground when leaving Narvik and was damaged) did not leave Altenfiord until shortly before noon on July 5, but by then there was no task for them. The merchant ships, no longer a convoy for they had obeyed the order to scatter, were falling victim one by one to the torpedoes of U-boats and aircraft. Of the thirty-five that had sailed from Iceland, only eleven reached their destination in North Russia.
Another great book on the Atlantic convoys:
C.S. Forester's The Good Shepherd

RED convoy route - BLUE pack-ice limit
Herinneringen van een Bramzijgertje - 1967
De Kinderen - 1968
The Children - 1969
Het Koninkrijk van de Vrede
I - De Kinderen van het Licht
The Peaceable Kingdom - 1971
I - The Children of the Light
II - The Holy Experiment
The Lamb's War - 1980
The Peaceable Kingdom - IV
De Vlucht van de HennyThe Trail of the Serpent- 1983
discarded titles: The Pirate; The Flight of the Henny
May partly have been inspired by HMAS Abraham Crijnssen.
The Star of Peace - 1984
based on play Skipper Next to God.
De Commodore
The Commodore - 1986
A Marinus Harinxma novel; one of his funniest.
The Peculiar People - 1992
The Peaceable Kingdom - III
The Centurion
Marinus Harinxma definitely goes over the superstitious edge; a pity.
The Outer Buoy - 1994.
Marinus Harinxma gets more and more superstitious.
De Vlucht - 1999
Met Marjorie de Hartog
The story of his flight from occupied Holland, written with Marjorie de Hartog.

A View of the Ocean - 2007
Marvelous little book, describing his mother and her death.
Especially interesting because he tells about his first contact with Quakers.

De Ondergang van De Vrijheid - 1939
Mist - 1939
The Ark at Rest - pre 1940
performed years later in Kassel, Germany.
De Duivel en Juffer Honesta - 1941
Schipper Naast God - 1942
published 1956
Skipper Next to God
Movie Maître après Dieu (France 1951)
The Rising Lark
Het Hemelbed - 1943
published 1953
The Fourposter - 1951
Movie, 1952 - later turned into musical I Do! I Do!
De Dood van een Rat - 1949
published 1956
Death of a Rat - 1946
U.S. title This Time Tomorrow
William and Mary - 1963

Ship’s Glory — 1955
Article in Harper’s Magazine
The Glory of the Sea — 1955
Article in The Saturday Evening Post
Robinson Crusoe in Florida — 1961
Article in Harper's Magazine
What Money Cannot Buy — 1966
Article in Atlantic Monthly


Ergens in Nederland — 1939
Producer Rudi Meyer, Director Ludwig Berger
[Somewhere in Holland] — about the Dutch mobilization before World War II; co-stars Jan de Hartog and Lily Bouwmeester

Jan de Hartog & Lily Bouwmeester
Jan de Hartog and Lily Bouwmeester
Ergens in Nederland

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