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Roads To Berlin Review Round-up

A wonderful selection of reviews for Cees Nooteboom’s Roads to Berlin, published in October . . .

“As Jan Morris is to Venice or Trieste, as Edmund White to Paris and Claudio Magris to the Danube, so is Cees Nooteboom to Berlin . . . This is a delightful book. Sombre (how could it be otherwise?), it has that particular clarity of the ‘copper sun’ picking out details on the façades of buildings and the souls of Berliners, past and present. Masterfully, it listens in to the rhythms of the History of both” Rebecca K. Morrison, Independent

Roads to Berlin goes some way to explaining why Nooteboom is so highly regarded . . . Roads to Berlin is thoughtful, meditative and strong when he ponders on time, memory and history. There are also diversions into Germany’s literature and theatre, politics and people . . . Nooteboom’s insightful prose is, as the book’s subtitle promises, a luxurious detour in the lands and history of Germany” Ben East, Metro

“Written and up-dated over the course of many years, Roads to Berlin offers an exciting account of those turbulent far-off events . . . At times the book reads like a restless personal journey towards self-knowledge. The writing is brocaded throughout with reflections on German culture, politics and philosophy. Roads to Berlin is not quite travel in the conventional sense, then; it is more like a diary . . . Nooteboom wears his erudition lightly, and weaves personal anecdote into memorable reportage” Ian Thomson, Sunday Telegraph

“Mr Nooteboom is a more congenial and informative guide to that momentous time. His Berlin reportage, from a 1963 Khrushchev rally in East Berlin to the tearing down of the Palast der Republik, brilliantly captures the intensity of the capital and its ‘associated layers of memory’ . . . The reader travels with him through the landscape and very idea of the German nation . . . he writes in a voice that blends the acuity of Martha Gellhorn with the meditative grace of W.G. Sebald”  Economist

“Roads to Berlin is writerly, abstract, walled off in his head . . . He is good on German history . . . He gives us a strong sense of the East on his first two visits in 1963 and 1989 . . . He neatly sums up the terrible strains between the two Germanys . . . He reminds us how fast the communist world fell apart, with unimaginable reversals of fortune” Carole Angier, Literary Review

 

Interview With Cees Nooteboom

Tireless devotees of the MacLehose blog will remember being informed in December of last year of a book of poetry by Cees Nooteboom that had been translated by David Colmer (also the translator of Peter Terrin’s The Guard).

If you would like to any more about it, KCRW Radio has broadcast an interview with Mr Nooteboom which is available for streaming on their website. The photo on the left is by Marzena Pogorzały, who specialises in writers and icebergs and works at John Sandoe Books — outside which the photograph was taken and in which they have a copy of Cees Nooteboom: Self Portrait of an Other.

Another Side Of Nooteboom

Cees Nooteboom is lauded in the U.K. for his novels, travel writing and now, after The Foxes Come At Night, his short stories, but very few people know that he is one of the Netherlands’ greatest poets.

Here he is reading at this year’s international poetry festival in Medellín, Colombia:

Well, the profile of Nooteboom’s poetry in the English-speaking world should now be raised somewhat by the of Self-Portrait of an Other: Dreams of the Island and the Old City, translated by David Colmer. American poet Ron Slate has reviewed it on his blog, On the Seawall.

Cees Nooteboom’s name appears perennially on the long list of candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in 1933 in The Hague, he is one of the world’s most accomplished and adventurous writers, having produced 14 books of fiction and 26 non-fiction titles (mainly travel narratives). Eight of his novels are or were available in English translation, including his fourth novel Rituals (LSU Press, 1983), his most famous work.

Seventeen years lapsed between the Dutch publication of his third novel and Rituals in 1980, during which he emerged as The Netherlands’ greatest poet. But unlike the verse of his peers Tomas Tranströmer and Zbigniew Herbert, his poetry is barely known in America. He has published 14 books of poetry in Europe – yet his Wikipedia custodians fail to list the single volume of English versions, The Captain of the Butterflies (Sun & Moon Press, 1997), a selection of splendid translations by Leonard Nathan and Herlinde Spahr.

Read the full review

Here, in an interview from earlier this year, he talks about his love of poetry and belief that it will make you a better writer:

Cees Nooteboom On Radio Four

Excited to note that stories from The Foxes Come At Night, Cees Nooteboom’s recently published collection of short stories, will be read on BBC Radio Four as part of their Afternoon Reading series.

The first story, ‘Gondalas’, will be broadcast today at 15.30 p.m., with two further stories following at the same time on Wednesday and Thursday. So, if the streets seem eerily quiet at mid-afternoon for the next couple of days, now you’ll know why. They will be read by Ian McDiarmid.

Cees Nooteboom Interview Part 2

In the second part of the interview Nooteboom discusses his pilgrimages to writers’ and poets’ graves and his belief that reading poetry will make you a better writer. He also talks about his experiences in Berlin when the wall came down, which will be recounted in Notes From Berlin, to be published in 2012

Interview With Cees Nooteboom

How better to celebrate the excellent and ongoing publicity for The Foxes Come At Night than posting our interview with the inimitable Cees Nooteboom, recorded when he visited London for the London Review Bookshop’s World Literature Weekend.

Here he discusses his new collection, the DEDICA Festival he was guest of honour of in Italy this year, Spanish politics, the late Patrick Leigh Fermor and his notion of the perfect hotel.

Cees Nooteboom Reads

Cees Nooteboom reads from last week’s Thursday Extract (from The Foxes Come At Night):

Thursday Extract: The Foxes Come At Night

The Foxes Come At NightA short extract, chosen by the author himself, from the short story Heinz from The Foxes Come At Night.

Heinz is a Dutch honorary vice-consul on a Mediterranean island with a pronounced fondness for good living. Here, he accepts an invitation to attend an official event on a Italian naval frigate, with disastrous consequences.

There will be a video recording of Mr Nooteboom reading from the extract on the blog very soon…

Feats of arms. A diplomatic incident. The trick with the reading glasses. Fear of the ambassador. The car stuck between two walls. Tollens. Shangri-la. Fishing. The freezer in the supermarket. Dutchmen. You name it. Negative heroism, nothing uplifting, never forgotten. The diplomatic incident was exemplary, not least because of the way it ended. In his secret heart Heinz was quite proud of his vice-title, especially when he was invited to attend some official event along with other “diplomats”. The others, the corps diplomatique, consisted of a handful of honorary consuls: a mildewed Englishman, a Spaniard with five names, an American retiree for whom it was a hobby, a Frenchman who ran a shipping company, and a German who, like Heinz, dabbled in real estate. One of their annual get-togethers was on board an Italian navy frigate which sailed out every September to cast a wreath onto the sea in memory of some wartime act of heroism in those very coastal waters. Several sailors had drowned, hence the wreath, and hence the presence of the admiral, the same one year after year, one of those figureheads kept for show. Offering, fatherland, peace, reconciliation, and then the wreath, floating briefly until, weighed down by the wires that held it together, it began slowly to sink, after which drinks were served. It was September, which meant that the Italians were still wearing those white dress uniforms which set medals and decorations off to such advantage. Someone who was present told me about it afterwards. That Heinz was drunk had not bothered anyone; they all were in the end. Prosecco, Arneis, Barolo, vinsanto, grappa. It may have been the dazzling whiteness, or something to do with both of them having been divers and sailors in their day, but at one point Heinz had seized a dish heaped with penne all’arrabbiata and emptied the contents over the admiral’s head with cries of basta la pasta! Everybody held their breath. Through their alcoholic haze the others saw how the admiral suddenly turned pale, drew himself up, and declared war on the Netherlands. Then he grabbed Heinz’s arm, twisted it behind his back and, holding him close, proceeded to kiss him on both cheeks, causing the thick red sauce to be smeared over them both. Incident closed. Yet more grappa. Even without having been there, I could see his face before me.

Translated by Ina Rilke

Read more: The Foxes Come At Night

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Nooteboom: The Story So Far (In English)

A quick tour through those books of Cees Nooteboom’s that are still in print in the UK in English translation:

Herman Mussert goes to bed one night in Amsterdam and wakes up in a hotel in Portugal where twenty years before he slept with another man’s wife. The fable-like qualities of The Following Story, winner of the European Literary Prize in 1993, have made it the most popular of Nooteboom’s novels in English translation.

“Sharp, elegant prose . . . It recalls, in tone, Vladimir Nabokov. The language is, by turns, delicately allusive and rich, even ripely comic” DJ Enright, TLS

Roads to SantiagoThe first of Nooteboom’s volumes of travel writing to be translated into English, Roads to Santiago is perhaps the book on the Camino de Santiago – no mean feat in a crowded field. Its appeal and longevity may owe something to Nooteboom’s playfully digressive style: in each of these twenty-five excursions he feels at liberty to divert the reader’s attention from the main focus on to an estoeric or essential tidbit from Spanish history and culture.

“Clearly reflective and erudite by nature, he displays his knowledge in a delightful and effortless way and has the knack of sharing his passion in such a way that we seem to be discovering the basic essentials of Spanish history for ourselves” Euan Cameron, Sunday Telegraph

Nomad’s Hotel draws together thirty years of Nooteboom’s travel writing, fourteen stories spanning four continents, all starting from when he first left The Netherlands to see the wider world – as a hitchhiker. As a born traveller, Nooteboom devotes much of his energies in Hotel Nomad to addressing that most important of questions: what would make the perfect hotel?

“Nomad’s Hotel­ is a jewel of a travel book, free of pretension, full of easy adventure, fresh with childlike wonder for the world” Rory MacLean, Guardian

A playful, feather-light but satisfying novel about a Dutch literary critic and a young Brazilian woman who first meet in Australia and then in Austria, where the woman is turned into an angel and stuffed into a cupboard. In Lost Paradise, Nooteboom achieves a perfect synthesis of staunch realism and almost spiritual flights of fantasy, with a few judicious swipes at Dutch literary establishment thrown in along the way.

“Nooteboom’s characters are gripping, his dialogue humorous and his narrative brimming with musings about identity and redemption. His genius, however, is his seamless integration of contemporary, mythic and historic images” Jennifer Vanderbes, Washington Post

The Following Story and Roads to Santiago translated by Ina Rilke, Lost Paradise by Susan Massotty, and Nomad’s Hotel by Ann Kelland.

 

Cees Nooteboom At The World Literature Weekend

This week the MacLehose blog will dedicated to the great Cees Nooteboom, who will be in conversation with A.S. Byatt on Friday at the British Museum as part of the London Review Bookshop World Literature Weekend:

Cees Nooteboom
in conversation with A.S. Byatt

Friday 17 June at 4.30 p.m.
Venue: Stevenson Lecture Theatre, British Museum

Tickets: £9.00 [Book online]

It has been a good year for Mr. Nooteboom. In addition to his volume of short stories ’s Nachts komen de vossen being published in France and the U.K. (by us, as The Foxes Come at Night), he was also the guest of honour at the Dedica festival in Pordeone. His work was re-interpreted by artists from a variety of disciplines over a two-week celebration of a half a century of inspired writing.

One of the many events was a reading by actress Anna Bonaiuto of “Heinz”, the longest story in The Foxes Come at Night. The collection was only recently published in the U.K. and has not yet been reviewed, but Florence Noiville wrote of the French edition in Le Monde:

In truth one needs an outstanding talent to evoke these ideas with such grace.  It is difficult to know exactly where this mesmerizing spell comes from when reading these short stories.  What is certain is that, by this rare combination of emotions and humour, Nooteboom had already struck and seduced us when Mokusei was first published 25 years ago in France. And it is still as delightful as it was then.

Competition

To win a signed and dedicated copy of The Foxes Come at Night, respond to pengles@maclehose.net or reply to @maclehosepress on Twitter with Cees Nooteboom’s full name. (Competition is now finished 15/6/11.)

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