Hans Scherfig: Den forsvundne fuldmægtig (The Missing Bureaucrat)


The latest addition to my website is Hans Scherfig‘s Den forsvundne fuldmægtig (The Missing Bureaucrat). This novel takes the form of a detective story, when two men in Copenhagen are found missing within a short while of one another. The first is a respected civil servant, working in the War Department, Teodor Amsted, a man who has always been punctilious in everything he does, both at work and at home. The second is something of a tramp, but clearly an educated one, as he reads books in foreign languages and asks the newsagent for the London Times. Initially, there seems to be no connection between the two but then the police do find a few connections. They also suspect that Amsted may have killed himself, when his office receives a suicide note and, later, the army find a badly exploded body but with Amsted’s watch and wearing the expensive clothes that Amsted wears but which are not common in Copenhagen. However, Scherfig uses this story, as he does in other of his books, to mock the bourgeoisie – their hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness and their self-imposed constraints. It is told in a very dry, ironic style but is very funny and, despite the fact that it is nearly seventy years old, it is probably still relevant today.

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