The Van der Valk Novels of Nicolas Freeling: Going by the Book
In Because of the Cats Nicolas Freeling’s second detective novel, commissaris Piet Van der Valk struggles to break the silence surrounding the death of a Dutch student. The dead boy’s lover sits before him in the police bureau, prim, self-possessed and resisting: ‘I don’t see why I should be questioned about my private life as though I were a criminal or something.’ This scene is worth isolating here because Van der Valk’s answer to the girl allows us to locate the central conceptual categories that structure all of the Dutch mystery novels of this series: ‘When someone dies by violence,’ Van der Valk explains, ‘he no longer has a private life. His actions… become legitimate subjects of inquiry’. As the two face each other in that stark room, they grimly re-enact the larger patterns of concealment and search that are most characteristic of Freeling’s work as a whole: she, a young woman, tries to protect her private life by exempting emotion and subjectivity from surveillance. He, the representative of the public world, claims the right to observe, to probe, to bring into the open what had hitherto been beyond the legitimate offices of the state. Freeling describes their tryst as an act of love: ‘He had just broken her; he felt as though he had raped her… he could not help it — at this moment he loved her.’1
KeywordsPrivate Life Public World Private Capacity Fictional World Dutch Student
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Notes and References
- 18.Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ( New York: W.W. Norton, 1979 ), p. 215.Google Scholar