A goldmine of exquisite prose and a sketchbook of a vanishing world
Like the sketches of Rembrandt or Van Gogh, these tales of young bohemians in Amsterdam evoke the vast panorama of the human condition. Nescio’s small body of writing is matchless in its precision, delicate irony, and clarity. His Nature Diary, never published during his lifetime, is a goldmine of exquisite prose.
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.