Jan Hendrik Frederik Grönloh (1882-1961) is a cult writer who is feted The Netherlands but largely unknown elsewhere.
Nescio, his pen name, is the Latin for ‘I don’t know’ and anticipates this level of anonymity. It remains to be seen whether the first English translation of his stories by Damion Searls (published in 2012), will do much to widen his reputation.
Grönloh apparently chose this pseudonym so that it didn’t impinge on his business career. If this it true, it’s quite ironic because the thrust of his fiction is anti-establishment and advocates against settling for a 9-5 life of conformity.
The Freeloader, the first, and best, story of the collection is about a dedicated loafer and scrounger who sees no point in seeking gainful employment.
Nescio was not what you would call prolific so the 154 pages of this slim volume written in his youth essentially constitute the sum total of his life works.
In English, it’s hard to understand why the Dutch rate him so highly There is an idiosyncratic charm and a healthy advocacy of quiet rebellion but little that makes anywhere near the same impression as his contemporary Franz Kafka.
Two quotes from Young Titans serve to sum up the rather forlorn and fatalistic tone:
“Every year we longed for something without knowing what. It got monotonous…………And everything takes its little course, and woe to those who ask: Why?”