Jan De Hartog

Franklin Library Jan De Hartog books

The Centurion - signed first edition - 1989

Writer Jan De Hartog

Jan De Hartog was a Dutch-American author, playwright, and marine adventurer, born on April 22, 1914, in Haarlem, Netherlands, and he passed away on September 22, 2002, in Houston, Texas, USA. His life was marked by a diverse range of experiences, from his early years in the Netherlands to his later years as a prominent literary figure in the United States. De Hartog began his career as a writer in the 1930s, initially focusing on plays and novels in his native Dutch language. One of his early successes was the play Skipper Next to God (Schipper naast God) in 1939, which gained attention for its exploration of maritime themes and human resilience. However, as World War II swept through Europe, De Hartog and his family found themselves in the midst of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

During the war, Jan De Hartog played an active role in the Dutch resistance. His experiences during this tumultuous period influenced his later works, providing a backdrop for themes of courage, survival, and the impact of war on individuals and communities. After the war, De Hartog and his family emigrated to the United States in 1947. Settling in New York, he began writing in English and gained international recognition for his novels. One of his most famous works is The Captain (1947), a novel inspired by his own experiences at sea and his observations of the human spirit in times of adversity.

Jan De Hartog's literary career flourished in the United States, and he continued to produce a prolific body of work, including novels, plays, and non-fiction. His works often explored themes of love, morality, and the human condition, with a particular emphasis on maritime settings and characters. In addition to The Captain, some of De Hartog's other notable works include The Peaceable Kingdom (1971) and The Lamb's War (1980). His ability to capture the essence of human struggle and triumph, combined with his vivid storytelling, contributed to his popularity as a writer.

Jan De Hartog's literary achievements were recognized with various awards, and his works were adapted into films and stage productions. Beyond his success as a writer, he remained engaged with social and political issues, and his experiences as both a European and American citizen added depth and nuance to his perspectives. Jan De Hartog's legacy endures through his contributions to literature, his exploration of universal themes, and his unique perspective shaped by a life that spanned continents and historical epochs.

The Centurion - A Novel

Martin Harinxma brings a new level of understanding to his research on the Roman Empire in Britain when he discovers that his hobby of divining water also allows him to travel back in time.

Martinus Harinxma is now retired from the sea, but the story he narrates here is as exciting as the bestselling The Captain and The Commodore (in which he featured as protagonist), and certainly more wondrous. Prodded by his wife and inspired by T. S. Eliot's line, "Old men ought to be explorers," Martinus takes up dowsing, finds he has a gift for it and, being a Roman history enthusiast, swings a pendulum over a long trail of Roman remains, largely in Britain. In the process he deserts linear time and becomes, or seems to become, a Roman centurion in the turbulent fourth century A.D. who is following in the footsteps of his son, a praepositus (colonel) ordered to put down a savage Welsh uprising. The story swings between the contemporary world and a vividly re-created former era, exploring the mysterious bond of fatherhood and the enigma of life itself. De Hartog is a dowser, and his elegantly told and historically knowledgeable story has a psychic dimension that transcends the fiction genre. It's a spellbinding novel, a tour de force combination of mystical exploration and compelling narrative drive. - Publishers Weekly

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