Jan de Hartog (b. 22 April 1914, Haarlem, Netherlands - d. 22 September 2002, Houston, Texas) was a Dutch playwright, novelist and occasional social critic who moved to the United States in the early 1960s.
Before "Holland's Glorie" de Hartog, while employed as skipper of a tour boat on the Amsterdam Canals, wrote several mysteries featuring Inspector Gregor Boyarski of the Amsterdam Water Police.
De Hartog's career as a writer (as well as his personal life) was decisively influenced by a coincidence. In May 1940, just ten days before Nazi Germany invaded and swiftly occupied the hitherto-neutral Netherlands, de Hartog published his book Hollands Glorie (Holland's Glory, translated much later to English as "Captain Jan").
The novel described the life of the highly skilled sailors on ocean-going tugboats, a specialized field of nautical enterprise in which the Dutch have always taken the lead. Without saying it in so many words, de Hartog portrayed the sailors - doing a difficult, dangerous and poorly rewarded job - as the modern successors to the bold navigators of the Dutch Golden Age.
In fact, the book's plot as such had nothing political, anti-German or anti-Nazi, the sailor protagonists' conflict being mainly with nature and with their highly paternalistic and authoritarian (and thoroughly Dutch) employers. Nevertheless, for a country undergoing the shock of invasion and occupation, the book with its outspoken assertion of and pride in Dutch identity became a bestseller in the occupied Netherlands and a focus of popular opposition to the Nazi occupation. As a result, the Gestapo took a lively interest in de Hartog, forcing him to go into hiding and then stage a difficult and adventure-filled escape to England.
In London he became deeply involved in the community of the exile Dutch sailors. The exiles felt deep alienation from and suspicion towards their British allies and hosts, and felt that they were being set up as cannon fodder (or rather, U-boat fodder) by the Royal Navy, being sent on dangerous missions with inadequately armed (or sometimes, completely unarmed) boats. This experience served as the background to several of his later books such as The Captain and "Stella" (also published as "The Key"). "The Key" was made into a movie, starring Sophia Loren and Trevor Howard under the title "Stella's Key"; it also started de Hartog on the route to becoming a pacifist which later culminated when he joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
De Hartog had many hesitations about authorising translation of Hollands Glorie into English, and when finally he did in 1947 the English version (entitled Captain Jan) did not have as much success as the Dutch original. However, in the wake of the war he made the decision to remain in the UK; later he relocated to the USA. He also made the professional decision to write most of his later works in English.
Precisely because in the war years he had been regarded as close to a national hero, quite a few people in Holland resented this later course which de Hartog took and felt betrayed and abandoned by him. While the sales of his books in the English-speaking world soared, his reputation in his own homeland took somewhat of a plunge, which took years to repair.
For his part de Hartog continued to regard himself as - and take pride in being - a Dutchman, even after living several decades in America, and many of his later books had Dutch protagonists and themes. Indeed, for many people outside the Netherlands, these books of his became a major source of information about Dutch society, culture and modern history.
In 1952 his play The Fourposter won the Tony Award for Best Play. Columbia Pictures also made The Fourposter into a movie, starring Rex Harrison and Lili Palmer. Later it became the musical I Do! I Do!
De Hartog's historical memorial The Hospital (1964), which exposed the horrid conditions of Houston's charity hospitals in the 1960s, led to significant reforms of that city's indigent healthcare system through the creation of the Harris County Hospital District. It also led, however, to considerable hostility and many anonymous threats which finally forced de Hartog and his wife to move away from Houston. The Quaker Liar
Books (in English) (incomplete)