notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Cees Nooteboom’

Memory is like a dog that lies down where it pleases

In Non-Fiction on March 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older
Is it true, as the novelist Cees Nooteboom once wrote, that ‘Memory is like a dog that lies down where it pleases’? Where do the long, lazy summers of our childhood go? Why is it that as we grow older time seems to condense, speed up, elude us while in old age significant events from our distant past can seem as vivid and real as what happened yesterday? Douwe Draaisma explores the nature of autobiographical memory. Applying a unique blend of scholarship, poetic sensibility and keen observation he tackles such extraordinary phenomena as déjà-vu, near-death experiences, the memory feats of idiot-savants and the effects of extreme trauma on memory recall.

Douwe Draaisma (1953) Professor History of Psychology at the University of Groningen, wrote the best selling Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older, How memory shapes our past which was translated in multiple languages. This book is both entertaining and educational, Draaisma’s bbok raises almost as many questions as it answers. He a blend of scholarship, poetic sensibility and keen observation in exploring the nature of autobiographical memory.


Roads to Berlin

In Review on December 6, 2012 at 10:54 PM
“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”. Rebecca K. Morrison, Independent

Roads to Berlin maps the changing landscape of Germany, from the period before the fall of the Wall to the present. Written and updated over the course of several decades, an eyewitness account of the pivotal events of 1989 gives way to a perceptive appreciation of its difficult passage to reunification. Nooteboom’s writings on politics, people, architecture and culture are as digressive as they are eloquent; his innate curiosity takes him through the landscapes of Heine and Goethe, steeped in Romanticism and mythology, and to Germany’s baroque cities. With an outsider’s objectivity he has crafted an intimate portrait of the country to its present day.

Roads to Berlin contains a promise of sorts: that, once tasted, you will always find a road back to a city which will be familiar and yet not. Beautifully translated by Laura Watkinson with a helpful glossary and a bibliography to escort the reader on further journeys, this is a delightful book.

“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

Read here the blog post by Nooteboom’s translator Laura Wilkenson:
Laura Watkinson: Discovering Cees Nooteboom’s Berlin

Roads to Berlin is published by MacLehose Press, UK

Poetry from the Netherlands

In More poetry please on November 7, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Landscape with Rowers

But what about the poetry? I can hear you say…The rich poetry of the Netherlands stays more or less a secret for the rest of the world, mostly due to the status of Dutch as a “minor” language spoken by only twenty-two million people. Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the “Beweging van Vijftig” (Movement of the Fifties) poets.

Nobel prize winner J.M. Coetzee translated six for he most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets (side-by-side with the original text) in Landscape with Rowers in 2004.

His selection ranges in style from the rhetorical to the intensely lyrical, including examples of myth-influenced modernist verse, nature poetry, experimental poetry, poems conscious of themselves within a pan-European avant-garde. The poets represented are Gerrit Achterberg, Hugo Claus, Cees Nootenboom, Sybren Polet, Hans Faverey, and my personal favorite Rutger Kopland.

Eric Ormsby in the New York Sun

“The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced… I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations…Mr. Coetzee’s translations of these cool and astringent poems read well…By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals–no mean feat.”

Self-Portrait of an Other

In Interviews on November 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Max Neumann

Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom discussed his book of prose poems written in response to drawings by Berlin artist Max Neumann on radio KCRW’s Bookworm.  The otherworldly drawings of Max Neumann inspired Nooteboom to write a set of prose poems that complements and echoes Neumann’s work: personal reflections — memories, dreams, fantasies, landscapes, stories and nightmares— and presents. These texts took ten years to be translated into English titled  Self-Portait of an Other, translated by David Colmer.

Self-portrait of an Other

More work by Max Neumann:

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