The inability to make human contact
Havinck describes fifteen days in the life of an Amsterdam lawyer named Robert Havinck. He has just cremated his wife, who, it quickly becomes apparent, had taken her own life by purposely causing an accident. This fact forces him to reconsider his marriage and life despite his reluctance to do so.
But Havinck is not a man used to deeply considering anything. He lives a superficial life, even with his teenage daughter, Eva, with whom he scarcely has any contact. He finds her difficult but does little to try and understand her. In actual fact, all the characters in Havinck are incapable of dealing with their feelings.
His wife is depicted as someone who could not cope with her disappointment in her husband, his girlfriend Maud runs away at the first sign of any problems, his daughter is closed and moody, his colleague Bork makes insightful but insensitive judgements of other people. The inability to make human contact, emptiness, that is Havinck’s central theme. The structure is straightforward and told chronologically. The style is sober and distant, though here and there ironic and witty through its cool observations on such products of modern society as state grants to the Arts, child pornography, psychotherapy, and social workers.