Dutch writer Bordewijk makes a first US appearance with a novel originally published in 1938 and the most popular of the 40-odd books that he wrote: the story of a son who makes his way in the business world despite the efforts of his father to destroy him. Jacob Katadreuffe is an illegitimate child of a servant-gift who leaves Dreverhaven after she becomes pregnant. The boy's father follows her movements, sends her sums of money, and offers to marry her out of a sense of cold obligation. But she refuses the money and the offer, and Jacob takes on her willfulness after a lackadaisical boyhood. He buys a small business, goes bankrupt (bankruptcies will continue to haunt him), and then begins to work for a law finn as a typist/office-boy. An autodidact, Jacob has a head for languages and a great curiosity about his father, and the plot develops accordingly. A hard worker, he is unable to establish human ties or to accept generous gestures on the part of his employers and colleagues. Even so, and despite a financial entanglement with his father, he becomes the head of the office--always maintaining a scrupulous distance from his fellow workers--and eventually takes an exam for his doctorate. His mind is ""an enormous archive of knowledge""; and by the close, he has been accepted into the law, in spite of several bankruptcies in which his father has had a hand. Altogether, a rather dreary office novel--although precise in its evocation of a milieu.