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Book reviews for "Nooteboom,_Cees" sorted by average review score:

Published in Paperback by Harvest Books (1996)
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Remarkable on all levels
This book gives you something to chew on on every level. The prose is good, (the English translation can not capture some of the idiosyncrasies of Dutch, but is very good overall) right from its opening sentence "The day Inni Wintrop committed suicide, Philips shares stood ..." All of the characters in the book are memorable and wonderfully sketched. (As an introverted person, I'm always amused by the walk through the woods scene. Taats asks Inni a question which spurs a two-page train of thought, but he answers only in a mono-syllable.) And it goes up to the structure of the book: the first of the 3 parts is called "Intermezzo". Plenty of ideas here.

"Confused times were at hand."
"Read Cees Nooteboom," a German acquaintance recommended. "You'll remember his RITUALS." Nooteboom is a Dutch poet and novelist. Set in Amsterdam during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, his sparse, 145-page novel opens with "the appalling news" of President Kennedy's assasination (p. 17), and his protagonist, Inni Wintrop's attempted suicide after his wife, Zita, leaves him for an Italian. The novel then follows Inni as he wanders the streets of Amsterdam alone, looking for meaning in a "wonderful, empty universe" (p. 113). Along the way, he encounters Arnold Taads and his estranged son, Philip, by chance. All three characters have lost their faith in God, and attempt to create their own meaning in life through rituals. Arnold Taads is rigidly tied to time. "Time," Inni learns, "was the father of all things in Arnold Taad's life" (p. 46). Philip Taads, on the other hand, attempts to escape time through Zen-like rituals. And as for Inni, "women had become his religion, the center, the essence of everything, the great cartwheel on which the world turned" (p. 60). Intelligent and poetic, RITUALS is ultimately a parable about the importance of learning to ride the inconsistent waves of life in a universe devoid of God.

G. Merritt

Thoughtful meditation on chaos and passion
This book is also in my top five books of all time. I did a search under the keyword "rituals" and it did not pop up (I had to find it a backwards way), and I had a moment of profound sadness thinking that this most wonderful book could be out of print. "Rituals" truly does inspire me. I haven't read it in four years, but it still is one of the best books I've ever read. I loved the intoxication of love and the meaning of life search of the main character. What can induce you to get off of the floor and live? I've wondered that many times in my life, and Inni (the main character) explores what REALLY matters - if anything. It's not to say that this book is a dour questing life meaning book - rather it is a rich, bravado, humorous, cleansing book that has many many rewards. The part of this book that I often think about (and I hope this wouldn't be a spoiler) is the correlation of Inni's mad, chaotic city (Amsterdam if I remember correctly) with monks in Japan. Very funny and important book. I almost feel akin to all the other reviewers who have read this as if we're in a special club.

In the Dutch Mountains
Published in Paperback by Penguin USA (Paper) (1991)
Authors: Cees Nooteboom and Adrienne Dixon
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You Are Not Unhappy Enough
In the Dutch Mountains began as a story with the title The Snow Queen. It was intended to be filmed but the film was never made. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, it pays homage to Andersen openly.

The Snow Queen is one of Andersen's most remarkable tales; a plea for the precious uniqueness of childhood, an appeal against the premature induction of the child into rationality. Little Kai is stolen by the Snow Queen and kept captive in her castle in the cold and snowy North. His faithful playmate, Gerda goes in search of him and after many adventures and tribulations she arrives, borne on the back of a reindeer, at the Snow Queen's great hall of ice.

Here, she finds Kai, blue with cold, playing an endless solitary game, trying to fit shards of ice together like puzzle pieces. Gerda's warm tears melt the ice around Kai's heart and he is freed from the Snow Queen's spell.

In Nooteboom's version, Kai and Gerda become Kai and Lucia, a beautiful, happy couple who share a life and make a living as illusionists for the theater. In their act, Kai blindfolds Lucia and holds up an object before her, which she then "sees." This couple is of one mind and their serene perfection is continually compared to the reunited halves of a self that, as in the fable of Plato's Symposium, has been split in two.

This happiness and oneness arouses the jealousy of a mysterious femme fatale, who has Kai kidnapped and whisked off to her own castle. There she keeps him in thrall, obliterating his memories of Lucia while subjecting him to her lust. For this coldly beautiful mistress, Kai feels a mixture of both fear and desire.

Near the end of this story the novelist-narrator, who by this point is indistinguishable from Nooteboom, himself, gets entangled in a debate about truth and fiction tinged with shades of Plato, Milan Kundera and Hans Christian Andersen. "Why," asks the narrator, "do I have this irrepressible desire to fictionalize, to tell lies?" "From unhappiness," answers Andersen. "But you are not unhappy enough. That's why you can't bring it off."

This is the most penetrating self-insight in this novel, which, like the rest of Nooteboom's fiction, is as much about its own processes and raisons d'ĂȘtre as it is about the fictitious activities of its characters. Despite contortions of self-reflexiveness that in another writer (Samuel Beckett, for instance) might give rise to agonies of the spirit, Nooteboom and his narrator-atavars seem far too urbane, too cosmopolitan and too much at home in the world to genuinely suffer. This is Nootebooms particular affliction as a writer: perhaps he is just too intelligent, too sophisticated, too cool, to be able to commit himself to the grand illusion of fiction.

At one of its most reflexive levels, Nooteboom's fiction has, of necessity, been about a search for a level of emotion that can be carried over undiminished into literary creativity. In the Dutch Mountains, Andersen's diagnosis turns out to be correct: for all the wit, for all the insight into self and its fictions, for all the elegance of style, there is finally just not enough raw emotion to drive the story forward.

Fairy Tale and Real Life
This novel has all traits of Cees Nooteboom's oeuvre - a lot of ideas, concepts and insights compressed in a slim volume, several levels of narrative, exquisite composition, excellent language (kudos also to translator).But some enigmatic quality of story makes its gist elusive and even criptic and any interpretation only relative. It is a fairy tale told by Alfonso Tiburon, a Spanish engineer, so we have at least two levels of narrative: a fairy tale per se and some thoughts of its author concerning literature and life. Both levels are rather uncomplicated apart: retold 'Snow Queen' with addition of Plato's concept of androgynes and some facts of Triburon's life with addition of his literary and philosophical opinions. The mystery appears when you peruse both levels simultaneously, and here Cees Nooteboom is at his best. Tiburon starts his tale with perfect beauty and perfect happiness (a perfect man Kai, a perfect woman Lucia and their perfect love) and promises to finish it with them. The beginning of the fairy tale resembles Andersen's story: Kai is abducted by Snow Queen, Lucia undertakes his quest. But this story 'happened not so very long ago' and the world seriously changed since Andersen's days. Today 'Snow Queen' is just a nickname of mob female bellwether, today perfect people can't keep their innocence and perfection any more. Kai becomes a silent lover of his cool mistress and, at the same time, a chauffeur during gang inroads. All this is at least motivated and justified by his painful eye. Lucia falls a prey to some lecherous wandering preacher and achieves a total blank in his embraces without any intrusion of splinted glass. But a fairy tale has its own laws that differ it from a real life. Some external events but not internal fortitude mend the situation. And now Lucia recommences her search leaving behind her new lover. A feeble ghost of Andersen's courageous heroine, she only dreams of robbers, of reindeer, of a girl with a knife. Happy end is a law of fairy tales: Kai and Lucia reunites again but where are promised perfect beauty and perfect happiness. The happy 'ever after' exists only in words (or in longing) but not in reality. There were love lost and some kind of reconciliation. But there was no real redemption and so there is no real perfection. Is a human being so weak today, is he/she powerless to face the evil of the world? In last chapter Tiburon recalls his childhood, the time when a child sees 'the brave new world' without its shortcomings. And previously, somewhere in the middle of the novel, he told us that the author who writes fairy tales distorts reality. 'It is, after all, possible that distortions may make something clear about form'. Nooteboom's opinion concerning modern world is far from optimistic. But nevertheless he believes that Kai and Lucia can be happy together after their ordeal. But a way to new perfect happiness will not be so short and easy as it was in the fairy tale. A wonderful novel!

Allegory to read
Are you a recovering someone? In the Dutch Mountains is a spell-binding tale of love lost, redemption, and reconciliation. Cees Nooteboom weaves a story from the view of Tiburon, a Spanish engineer, in the same fashion that he presents his narrative of travels across central Spain in Roads to Santiago. A must read.

The Following Story
Published in Paperback by Vintage/Ebury (A Division of Random House Group) (06 June, 1996)
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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The journey to the eternity
The story starts few minutes before death of Herman Mussert, a teacher of classical languages, and ends few minutes after his death. In this short period of time we learn all the important events of his life. The story is just like a journey to the eternity. It begins in Amsterdam, where Herman is dying of heart attack. It continues in Portugal, where he wakes up and remembers the things happened here years ago that were very important for all his life. The last part of the journey is a journey with the ship over the ocean to the origin of the river Amazon. This is the last part of the journey and it is where the eternity begins.

This is also a story of two men and two women, or three teachers and one student. This is a story of love and jealousy or love and revenge. The very important thing in this book is a relationship between materialistic world of science with all his natural principals, and spirituality. The last moments of life are just the right ones to think about the connection between them.

The novel is very short. In some way, it is cyclic and written in such a way that at the end the reader has a feeling that the story is beginning not ending. But there is already the time for a following story - the story of the next traveller on the journey to the eternity.

A wonderful novella.
This is the first book by a dutch author I have read, and its excellence has led me to think that this nation is unfairly neglected. This book had many beautiful moments, and was, as far as I could tell, superbly translated.

Masterpiece of modern literature
I've come across this book quite inadvertently (or serendipitously taking into account the results)attracted by its European Literary Prize. But from the first page I was fascinated by this literary masterpiece of previously unknown (for me) author. It is a love story dressed in apparel of modern psychology and philosophy, overwhelming beautiful and devastatingly sad, absolutely devoided of schmaltz. This incredibly succinct book includes stupendous magnitude of contemplations and reflections, metaphors and symbols, images and emotions. Its composition is perfect - from humorous observations of ostentatious misanthrope nonplussed by extraordinary awaking in a memorable place to the pinnacle of genuine understanding of human tragedy of classical scope where jealousy and vengeance generate distorted passion and destroy real love. Its language is exquisite, the language of the sincere poet. It is the book which you'll want to reread when the last phrase still reverberates in your mind. It is one of the best books I've ever read, chef d'oeuvre of intelligent, perspicacious and generous author.

All Souls Day
Published in Hardcover by Harcourt (05 November, 2001)
Authors: Cees Nooteboom and Susan Massotty
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Not really a novel
Maybe this book is really travel literature. The characters aren't important, but place (Berlin) and history are. The book meanders like travel literature, which is pleasant, but doesn't have the tight structure of a novel like The Following Story or In the Dutch Mountains.

How to see the world
This novel develops in a much slower, traditional way than Nooteboom's other novels but this slowness is appropriate for the subject matter. The strength of this novel is the incredible way Nooteboom through words, allows us to see the world as Arthur sees it - he processes visual images not words or logical formulations. We are drawn into his experience of verbal overload, of stumbling to say in words what is known in visual or aural images.

The second success of the novel is it's accurate portrayal of a specific intellectual time - Hegel, Camus, Volans, Pedereski, Hildegard ... it was so familar as to be eerie ... for the novel Berlin with Dutch, German, Russian individuals. And yet in some strange way the same as my college days in rural Wisconsin with students from Uganda, Honduras ... In some way Nooteboom has captured the intellectual life of an era and successfully made it universal.

Throughout the novel - verbally and by plot - the volume addresses the issue of history - personal, recent, and ancient. The juxtaposition of Arthur's visual record of history, of his friend's intellectual understanding and of his "girl friend's" archival search for history is effective at forcing the reader to think. Often this is done by small details - a statue that fallen still has a cap in place where a real cap would have fallen off, the timeless sound of conches in Japanese monasteries, the sound of tires on wet pavement ...

This is a novel that challenges the way you perceive the world rather than simply presenting the challenge that Arthur is facing. Arthur having lost wife and child in an airplane accident is forced to reevaluate his world. The novel says the rest of us should do so without a prod like Arthur's.

One of the world's best living writers
I just finished reading this book and cannot recommend it enough. It is a sort of novel of ideas that encompasses traditional German philosophy as well as more modern issues. The story and characters are strong, and the portrayal of Berlin as an historical but ever-changing city is dead-on. This novel is longer than most of Nooteboom's others, but just as good a starting place if you're unfamiliar with his books.

25 Buildings You Should Have Seen Amsterdam - Arcam Pocket 15
Published in Paperback by Architectura & Natura Press (2002)
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Aas : gedichten
Published in Unknown Binding by Arbeiderspers ()
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Published in Unknown Binding by Atlas ()
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Berlijnse notities
Published in Unknown Binding by De Arbeiderspers ()
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Berliner Notizen
Published in Unknown Binding by Suhrkamp ()
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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Roads to Santiago
Published in Paperback by Havill Pr (1998)
Author: Cees Nooteboom
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