F. Springer was a diplomat who travelled the world. Several remarkable episodes from his time spent ‘living out of a suitcase’ are reflected in the lives of his characters. Like the worldly Stendhal, he takes a light and humorous approach. Although Springer favours stories that have a strong plot, these are not heroic dramas. Indeed quite a few machos and braggarts meet with prosaic deaths. In Bougainville Tommie Vaulent, for all his bravado, drowns in the sea. Bo, also a diplomat, receives a parcel of papers from Tommie’s widow. As well as a notebook belonging to Tommie’s grandfather, containing recollections of meetings with Multatuli and Mata Hari, there are personal notes made by Tommie that cast a surprising light on Bo and Tommie’s shared past and on Tommie’s death.
Tommie Vaulant calls his friend Bo ‘the secretary’, the kind of person who thinks of everything and notices everything. It is in light of this that Springer’s stories should be read, as involved but distant, both near and far. His work emerges from precisely this apparent contradiction. Springer’s style is ambiguous, laconic, but at the same time steeped in melancholy and longing, producing the clear, quiet voice that won his novels such acclaim.