Back to Their Desks

Benjamin Moser

  • Amsterdam Stories by Nescio, translated by Damion Searls
    NYRB, 161 pp, £7.99, May 2012, ISBN 978 1 59017 492 0

After publishing a handful of stories around the time of the First World War, Fritz Grönloh, an Amsterdam businessman, wrote almost nothing until his death in 1961. His small body of work is about artistic abortion and the frivolity of writerly dreams. And his pseudonym with its built-in negative contained this resignation. Nescio is Latin for ‘I don’t know’; and in his stories not-knowing, not-doing approaches a metaphysical ideal. ‘I’m not a poet and I’m not a nature-lover and I’m not an anarchist,’ says Japi, whose nickname gives the title to ‘The Freeloader’, the first of the Nescio stories published in Amsterdam Stories. ‘I am nothing and I do nothing. Actually I do much too much. I’m busy overcoming the body. The best thing is to just sit still; going places and thinking are only for stupid people.’

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