A goldmine of exquisite prose and a sketchbook of a vanishing world
Notes on train times and the price of sandwiches alternate with flashes of brilliant description: ‘small yacht with 4 white sails on motionless water, mirror image (!), no separation between water and sky’; ‘lots and lots of little lambs curled up like pussycats’; ‘the poplars across the river, so tall and top-heavy, and slender, no leaves except on top, a curtain of enchanted Egyptian trees, Pharaoh walking among them.’
Some characters come straight out of Nescio’s stories: ‘the train was full of onanists who got out somewhere it wasn’t supposed to stop, 12 to 16 years old, foolish faces, glasses, cigarettes, cardboard suitcases and ill-fitting clothes.’
The diary dates from 1946 to 1955, just as the baby boom and urban renewal were starting to change the Netherlands completely; Nescio captured a landscape that he knew would soon be gone forever.