Damion Searls and Jeroen Dewulf
read from and discuss Nescio's Amsterdam Stories (New York Review of Books, $14 trade paper original).
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.
Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh (1882–1961) was born in Amsterdam. Revealing his identity publicly only in 1929, he wrote what is now considered perhaps the best prose in the Dutch language.
A former UC Berkeley grad student, Damion Searls is a writer and a translator of many classic 20th 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.
Professor Jeroen Dewulf is Director of the Dutch Studies Department at UC Berkeley.