Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Attempts to Make Something of Life. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old by Hendrik Groen

My mother got this book as a birthday present from her sister and lent it to me. My mother is 82 years old, and although she still lives at home with my father, she can relate to a lot of things in the book, and she really loved it. 

As it says in the title, Hendrik Groen is 83¼ years old. He lives in an old people’s home in Amsterdam. He is a nice, caring, helpful and pleasant person who does not make a lot of noise in the world. He decides to change his attitude and become more tough and speak out about matters he thinks are wrong. Not to totally go outside himself, he decides to be obnoxious in secret and write a diary for one year. Here he can write whatever he likes. He can be as true as he likes, no one will read it but himself.

It is the story of being old in an old peoples’ home. About friendship and love at the end of life. Just because you are old does not mean you have to give up everything, right? You have the right to think what you like about politicians, life in general, the people running the home and whatever is happening in the world. You have the right to have a meaningful life.

To help fight boredom he and his friends, start a group to organise excursions. Each one of the group will organise a tour, a dinner, a golfing session, or whatever they like to try. Once a month they go out, rather secretive, which just make all the other people in the home wondering what is going on. The description of these outings are hilarious and it shows that only the sky is the limit!

In the diary he writes about big and small events. How difficult it can be to have a meaningful life when you are old. Worries about economy, your health, and the health of your friends. It is written with a lot of irony and humour, sometimes black humour, and that makes it such a thought worthy book.

It has been a great success in the Netherlands and is now conquering the world. The name Hendrik Groen is a pseudonym and it is not publicly known who the author is.

I read it in Swedish, and I made two small notes, that I especially liked (although there were many more). The translation is my own:

”Old people lose things all the time, just like children, but they do no longer have a mom who knows where everything is.”
So true!
”Only those who never do anything, can never do anything wrong." 

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