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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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Works by Cees Nooteboom All Souls’ Day, trans. Susan Massotty (London: Picador, 2001). Allerzielen (Amsterdam: Atlas, 1998). Berlijn 1989–2009 (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2009). Berlijnse notities (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1990). ‘De bevochten lichtheid’, Vrij Nederland (31 January 2009) [LiteRom online database] accessed 1 August 2012. Bitterzoet: Honderd gedichten van vroeger en zeventien nieuwe (Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 2000). The Captain of the Butterf lies, trans. Leonard Nathan and Herlinde Spahr (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1997). ‘Dankrede bij uitreiking P.C. Hooftprijs 2004’, in Földényi, László, et al., In het oog van de storm (Amsterdam and Antwerp: Atlas, 2006). De doden zoeken een huis (Amsterdam: Querido, 1956). De filosoof zonder ogen: Europese reizen (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1997). Die folgende Geschichte (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 1995). The Following Story, trans. Ina Rilke (London: Harvill, 1993). Het geluid van Zijn naam: Reizen door de Islamitische wereld (Amsterdam: Atlas, 2005). Gemaakte gedichten (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1970). Gesammelte Werke, Band 1: Gedichte (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2003). Gesloten gedichten (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 1964). Het gezicht van het oog (Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 1989). In Nederland (Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 1984). In de bergen van Nederland (Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers, 1997). In the Dutch Mountains, trans. Adrienne Dixon (Harmondsworth: Viking Penguin, 1987). The Knight has Died, trans. Adrienne Dixon (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990). De koning van Suriname (Amsterdam: Muntinga, 1993). Licht overal (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2012). 236 Bibliography Lost Paradise, trans. Susan Massotty (London: Harvill Secker, 2008). Nomad’s Hotel: Travels in Time and Space, trans. Ann Kelland (London:...

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