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Nomadic Literature

Cees Nooteboom and his Writing


Jane Fenoulhet

Cees Nooteboom (born 1933) is a writer of fiction, poetry and travel literature. Translated into at least thirty-four languages, his work raises important questions about the mobility of literary texts and invites a new theoretical approach, for to read Nooteboom straightforwardly as a Dutch author would be to do him an injustice. In this book, his fiction and travel writing are discussed on the basis of his English oeuvre, while the chapter on his poetry moves between Dutch and English editions. The first part of the study reflects on texts crossing boundaries and the ways in which literary theory and history have dealt with them. The author then brings nomadic philosophy to bear on translation studies, considering translation as the process through which a literary work is welcomed into a new culture. The second part of the book argues that Nooteboom’s themes and preoccupations are themselves nomadic, with their philosophical treatment of the subjective experiences of death, writing, love, sex and crisis as opportunities for becoming and self-exploration. Nooteboom’s imaginative worlds are constructed in language that is playful, laconic, meditative, witty and yet, especially in the poetry, deadly serious.


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List of Illustrations vii Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 I Introducing Cees Nooteboom and the Dutch Literary Field 1 II Mobility, Nomadism and New Belongings 11 Part 1 Literature and New Belongings 23 Chapter 1 Literature on the Move: Finding a Disciplinary Framework 25 Chapter 2 New Belongings: Translation, Travel and Cees Nooteboom 51 Chapter 3 Nomadic Subjectivity and Identity: Or, Cees Nooteboom and Dutchness 71 Part 2 Cees Nooteboom: The Writing 103 Chapter 4 The Novels: Fictions of Becoming 105 vi Chapter 5 The Poetry: ‘Like a Foreigner in One’s Own Language’ 141 Chapter 6 The Travel Writing: Translation as a Nomadic Mode 197 Bibliography 235 Index 245

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