Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cees Nooteboom's Perth angel tour

I find myself returning to Cees Nooteboom - the Dutch writer and poet - and his book Lost Paradise. It is an evocative read with one character encountering another as she plays an angel on a tour of Perth in Western Australia. The angel is unresponsive and cannot speak but the geography of Perth is accurate. My father was born in Perth and it captures for me the impossibility of ever getting to know his city. Only the beautiful interface between a city known well and then abandoned along with a whole country. As Jennifer Vanderbes said in her review of The Washington Post, 'Nooteboom is a novelist of big themes, but he is never heavy-handed. He embeds philosophical musings in observations of the commonplace, so that his ideas sneak up on you, appearing unexpectedly, breathtakingly, like angels hidden in abandoned cupboards.’ –

Paradijs verloren

Nooteboom's travel books are also well worth a look; he wrote one of the best accounts I have read of travelling through Spain. The alluringly named (for me a one-time inhabitant of Galicia) De omweg naar Santiago 1992 (published in English as the Roads to Santiago. Harcourt Brace, 1997) I am also tempted by his stint on a freighter to Suriname in 1957; all to get to Fanny Lichtveld who became his first wife as a result. No wonder. Some of his experiences are recounted in the book De verliefde gevangene (1958). 

More on Nooteboom and his travels here http://www.ceesnooteboom.com/

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