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Literature / The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen

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"You know, I'm going to Bruges, Belgium—not to Syria, so I'm unlikely to be beheaded. In fact there's about a million times higher chance of me just dropping dead of old age at any moment, and I don't need to go to Bruges for that—that might just happen right here right now."
Hendrik, telling off a fellow resident who's bugging him about his upcoming trip
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A Dutch book that was published in 2014 (original title: Pogingen iets van het leven te maken: Het geheime dagboek van Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 jaar oud; published in English as The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old) that got both a sequel book in 2016 by the title of Zolang er leven is: Het nieuwe geheime dagboek van Hendrik Groen, 85 jaar, and a TV series adaptation.

The books' and TV series premise is as follows: the protagonist is an eighty-plus-year-old man whose physical health is deteriorating and who's living in an "old people's home" in Amsterdam. The original book starts off at 1 January 2013 with his determination to write a diary daily, and the book is indeed written in a diary form. He documents everything that happens to him in 2013 in the first book. At the beginning of that year, he decides to establish a "club" (which he calls the "old-but-not-dead-club") of, in total, six elderly residents, with the purpose of them regularly going out "on adventures", to learn new hobbies, or to just have fun. The club doing so soon creates jealousy in the other residents, and the management of their nursing home soon starts to object to them doing this as well. Soon, Hendrik starts to turn all of this into a higher cause: he wants a better standard of living for the old inhabitants of the nursing home, in general.

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The second book is another diary, that starts off at 1 January 2015 and documents Hendrik's life during that year.

As of late 2017, a TV series adaptation was released (currently only broadcasted in the Netherlands), which was slightly less comedic and more serious in tone than the books.

The author of the books is stated to be just "Hendrik Groen", which is the In-Universe name of the main character. Their Real Life identity is unknown. Who really wrote these books in Real Life is unknown. When the first book won the prestigious NS Publieksprijs (one of the biggest literary awards in the Netherlands), whomever the author was notoriously never showed up to collect the prize (a first, and it shows they really care about concealing their identity).

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The books and TV series in general provide examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Evert is frequently drinking alcoholic drinks (of any kind) in copious amounts. Originally played for laughs, but about halfway through the first book, he starts to have serious health problems (amongst other things, having a leg amputated) that are (at least partially) caused by his alcohol abuse and his doctors tell him he really needs to cut it down, but he doesn't.
  • Anyone Can Die: Arguably justified because all protagonists are octogenarian or older, frail people. Out of the main characters, Eefje dies at the end of the first book, and minor, non-important characters are also very frequently mentioned to have died.
  • December–December Romance:
    • In the first book, ultimately (and sadly) subverted: Hendrik's narrative reveals he's in love with Eefje, and she seems to reciprocate this. However, before this can lead to anything, she dies.
    • In the second book, Evert and Leonie are continuously heavily flirting with each other.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Hendrik had a daughter who is revealed to have died by drowning at four years old.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The dynamic between protagonist Hendrik and his best friend Evert: Hendrik is a quiet, introvert, stoic and cynic, while Evert is the boisterous life of the party.
  • Took a Level in Cheerfulness: The basic premise of the book: Hendrik starts out as someone who feels his life is very boring, and as a self-described shy, boring person who never takes action. He vows to change this, by starting the club; and then everything he does with the club brings him much joy, and he later frequently comments how much better he feels because of his friends and what they do.
  • Too Much Information: Hendrik often complains about his fellow residents over-sharing about their physical ailments, and some things he really didn't want to know.
  • The Unintelligible: No-one can understand anything Edward says. Ultimately played more for drama than for laughs as it usually is, because Edward has this disability because he had a stroke (this sadly is Truth in Television, as strokes indeed lead to aphasia).
  • Vacation Episode: In the first book, Hendrik and Evert go visit Evert's son for a week, which is a vacation and a very welcome change of environment for them. In the second book, they do this again, but also, the entire club goes on vacation to Bruges, Belgium, for a few days, and have a blast.

The first book provides examples of:

  • An Arm and a Leg: Evert's leg is amputated. He does not seem to care about this as much as his friends / the other characters, though.

The second book provides examples of:

  • Accidental Innuendo: Happens In Universe when some of the nursing home residents wonders out loud "But won't the lubricant then come out with it?" (about a package of custard that has written on it that it has a new kind of coating on the inside lining that is more smoothly), upon which other characters start to snicker, upon which the person who remarked it blushes.
  • Gratuitous English: One minor character, when confronted about something, blurts out the English "So what?", upon which the other characters are surprised at this pretty random use of English.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Hendrik has a confrontation with his arch-nemesis Mrs. Stelwagen, she lets it slip that "[Hendrik] doesn't have inside information anymore [...after Stelwagen fired Anja]". Hendrik immediately understands Stelwagen knows he knows she knows that Anja was his "informant" in the previous book, and she fired her.
  • Practical Joke: Evert does these frequently in general, but to state one example: he at a certain point literally glues coffee cups to their coffee dishes, which causes the other inhabitants to bewilderedly shake these.
  • Shipper on Deck: Hendrik sees Evert and Leonie continuously flirting with each other throughout the second book, and in his narrative states they should just get together.

Alternative Title(s): Het Geheime Dagboek Van Hendrik Groen

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