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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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Figure 1 Cees Nooteboom at the Free University of Berlin in 2008 (photograph by Stephan Töpper, Freie Universität Berlin). 81 Figures 2a and 2b Contrasting covers: In the Dutch Mountains and its Dutch counterpart In de Bergen van Nederland (reproduced by kind permission of Arbeiderspers publishing house). 122 Figures 3a and 3b Contrasting covers: The Following Story complete with recommendation from Reich-Ranicki, pub- lished by The Harvill Press (reproduced by kind permission of The Random House Group Ltd) and its counterpart in Dutch, Het volgende verhaal (reproduced by kind permission of Arbeiderspers publishing house). 138 Figure 4 Front cover, Self-Portrait of an Other. 191 Figures 5a and 5b The front covers of Roads to Santiago, published by The Harvill Press (reproduced by kind per- mission of The Random House Group Ltd) and Roads to Berlin (reproduced by kind permission of Quercus Editions Ltd). 221

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