Amsterdam Stories cover
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Publication date:
March 20, 2012
NYRB Classics
Available as E-Book, International Literature

A New York Review Books 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.

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


Nescio should have gotten here long ago. His work converged with many aspects of American literature and culture. The ragtag circle of artists at the center of his stories could have hung out with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty….Nescio’s absence from our literature is most surprising because of the crushing beauty of his work…. Amsterdam Stories is a book of landscape. It is about what words the mind hears when the eyes are truly open, seeing the world as a reason to create.
—Josh Cook, The Millions

A valuable introduction to a significant Dutch writer.
Publishers Weekly

In every respect the work of Nescio represents an exception to the calm, bourgeois realism of the early twentieth century… He was arguably the most non-conformist writer of his time…. In his stories Nescio created a number of extraordinary characters, who have become legendary in Dutch culture.
—Theo Hermans, A Literary History of the Low Countries

Though he published few stories, his position in Dutch literature is a very special one.
Cassell’s Encyclopedia of World Literature

Nescio’s utter simplicity goes hand-in-hand with a great command of humour, irony, matter-of-factness, understatement and sentiment (never sentimentality or self-pity), all of which miraculously balance each other out. He is essentially a lyricist, a poet writing in prose.
— Dutch Foundation for Literature