Cees Nooteboom talks to winstonsdad

I ve been lucky enough  to Ask The best Known Living Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom ,the prize winning writer is often mentioned as a Nobel prize winner for his body of Work so to tie in with his newest collection of stories being released in English and Iris of Iris on book Dutch literature month some questions About his books and Translation-.


  1. You are a travel writer ,art critic ,poet and literary writer – of these which is closest to your heart ?

The combination. My prose would not be the way it is without my interest, both as a writer and a reader, in poetry. Poetry goes to the heart of things, finds new ways for words, forces one to be precise,and at the same time implies an enormous freedom of thought and expression.

  1. How do you manage to find the time to write so prolifically ?                           Time is always there, it depends what you want to do with it. Couperus, who was more prolific than I am, always claimed that he was lazy.
  2. In this latest collection of stories to be translated  into English ,which came first The theme or The stories  ?                                                                                        The theme belongs to my age. Friends separate, colleague’s die, people disappear in all kinds of ways, and one finds time to reflect on all that, which belongs the work of memory.
  3. In the Foxes Come at Night how much of your own life has been invested into the stories ?                                                                                                                              This question was often asked of Marcel Proust. After all, the protagonist of his 4000 page book was called Marcel, like the author, and many people wanted to recognize themselves and others in his book. But he was adamant and said it was all fiction, including the author in the book with whom he shared a first name.

He was right, if only for the simple fact that Proust is dead, and the other Marcel is still very much alive in all these pages.

  1. How closely do you work with your translators ?                                                    Very close, especcially when they need me.
  2. How  important are champions of literature in translation such as publishers lik MacLehose Press ?                                                                                                         They are the salt of literary life, a last bulwark against the ever increasing commercialism of the international booktrade.
  3. I’m doing this as part of Iris on books Dutch Literature month – What is special about Dutch literature for the readers that may not have been introduced to it before ?                                                                                                        The Dutch are a rather special tribe, like the english, but smaller. On the other hand,Holland is not an island. It has taken the world a long time to recognize that there are some interesting writers out there, like Hermans, Mulisch, Claus, Mortier, van Dis, Grunberg, and many others. And of course it does not help that we know much more about English writers than English readers know about dutch literature. A small language can be a prison. Translation is liberation.
  4. Why do you think the English sometimes do not understand Dutch literature ?                                                                                                                                                      For the reason I have just indicated. Dutch literature may be an acquired taste, we are a metropolitan country, very densely populated, forced by size, inclination and the necessity of trade to be international, though lately rather inward looking. There is not enough land to serve as a counterweight to the cities. That makes for a rather special society. The language is spoken by 21 milion sometimes conceited citizens, with opinions about practically everything, in an eternal dialogue with each other.
  5. Do you have a favourite book (If yes please name it )?                           Remembrace of Things past, by Marcel Proust. Ala Recherchedu Temps Perdu.
  6. Which of your own books stands out for you ?                                                           The Knight has died ( De Ridder is gestorven, 1963), which has not been published in theUK. It is maybe not my best book , but it was very important in my writing life, since in it I understood for the first time what writing really was about. It was published in english long ago byLouisianaStateUniversityPress, and as I noticed recently inAustraliaandIndia, some of my fans have been able to find it in the ever expanding labyrinth of the internet where nothing is ever lost.

Cees new collection is out now by Maclehose press ,my review will follow shortly ,Many thanks to Nicci at Maclehose who help me get chance to ask Cees these questions .

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June 2011
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