Amsterdam Stories by Nescio
(New York Review Books)

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“The devil always has a good time with adorable, unaffected young women who love their lawfully wedded husbands very much.” If only there had been more of this and fewer mawkish descriptions of golden sunsets.
-NY Times

Synopsis

No one has written more feelingly and more beautifully than Nescio about the madness and sadness, courage and vulnerability of youth: its big plans and vague longings, not to mention the binges, crashes, and marathon walks and talks. No one, for that matter, has written with such pristine clarity about the radiating canals of Amsterdam and the cloud-swept landscape of the Netherlands.

Who was Nescio? Nescio—Latin for “I don’t know”—was the pen name of J.H.F. Grönloh, the highly successful director of the Holland–Bombay Trading Company and a father of four—someone who knew more than enough about respectable maturity. Only in his spare time and under the cover of a pseudonym, as if commemorating a lost self, did he let himself go, producing over the course of his lifetime a handful of utterly original stories that contain some of the most luminous pages in modern literature.

This is the first English translation of Nescio’s stories.
 

About Nescio

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Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh (1882-1961) was born in Amsterdam, the oldest of four children. After an idealistic youth, he joined the Holland-Bombay Trading Company in 1904, becoming director in 1926, suffering a nervous breakdown leading to a short hospitalization in 1927, and retiring at age fifty-five, on December 31, 1937; he married Aagje Tiket (b. 1883) in 1906 and had four daughters with her, born in 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1912. Meanwhile, as Nescio (Latin for "I don't know"; he adopted a pseudonym so as not to jeopardize his business career, acknowledging his authorship publicly only in 1929), he wrote what is now considered perhaps the best prose in the Dutch language. Damion Searls is a writer and a translator of many classic twentieth-century authors, including Proust, Rilke, Robert Walser, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Thomas Bernhard. His translation of Hans Keilson's Comedy in a Minor Key was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He also edited Henry David Thoreau's The Journal: 1837-1861, available as an NYRB Classic. Joseph O'NeilL is the author of three novels, most recently Netherland (2008), and of Blood-Dark Track: A Family History (2001). Born in Ireland, he spent most of his childhood in the Netherlands.
 
Published March 20, 2012 by NYRB Classics. 177 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Amsterdam Stories
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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Richard Mason on Apr 20 2012

“The devil always has a good time with adorable, unaffected young women who love their lawfully wedded husbands very much.” If only there had been more of this and fewer mawkish descriptions of golden sunsets.

Read Full Review of Amsterdam Stories (New York R... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on May 15 2012

Some speech has been translated into rather odd-sounding American slang of uncertain period. This grates on me...

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