Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom
Dutch non fiction
Original title -Brieven aan Posiedon
Translator – Laura Watkinson
Source review copy
The hollow light is still on the fields
Where the winter has warmed
And the snows have drained away
And the hunter’s cry is still on the air
As the bullet flies home
And the heart that’s pierced with it
Still is racing
Still is racing all alone
The silver shoals of the light in the deep
Brush the glittering skin
Where the great, dark body writhes
And the trembling jaw
The unfathoming sounds of leviathan, bound
As his heart, though weakening
I choose Leviathon bound by Shearwater as my lyric for the book as it comes from an album that combines sea, birds and myth in the songs source
Cees Nooteboom is a name often mentioned on this blog , I have interviewed him a number of years ago and also the translator of this book Laura watkinson .Well I have also reviewed Cees books twice before in fact, so this is the third thread of his writing I’ll be reviewing as i have previously reviewed the novel In the dutch mountains and the short story collection The foxes come at night .So now I move onto a travel book of his , that is more than a travel book it is really a musing on life , art , history and the world we live in .
You are a god , and I am a man .That is however one looks at it , the state of affairs .But perhaps I might be permitted to ask you something I have always wanted to know. What is a human being to the gods ? Do you despise us for being mortal ? or is the opposite the case ? Are you jealous because we are allowed to die ? Because your fate is , of course , immortality , even though we have no idea where you are now .
From Poseidon II , of course we never know the answer but we have to ask !
Letters to Poseidon is one of those books that is very hard to pigeonhole as it is a collection of letters that Cees has written every year to a muse that of Poseidon (Greek god of the sea ) to protect his Menorcian home every time he leaves these are 23 slices of musings from the great Dutch writer that are divided into a sections .A lot of the musings start from a conversation that he has with Poseidon that is about how the god has been viewed and represented in history .Also musings on items , events even nature .This is one of those books that is hard to describe as a whole as it is a mosaic of pieces rather like one of those photo mosaics with Poseidon being the big picture but lots little pictures on every subject under the sun making this picture up .
At around midnight , here in a Germanic winter on the edge of the alps , I see him again , Orion , the blind hunter , the moon man of the mountains , Poseidon’s son , the most beautiful man there ever was , lured into the bed by the insatiable Eos , the drawn , who was tormented by unflagging lust as a punishment when Aphrodite caught her in bed with Ares , the god or war .I know Orion from winter nights in Amsterdam , when I see his shape above one of the canals .
from a piece called Orion , I know Orion as well he is one of the few constellations I can remember in the nights sky so have also seen him many a night as well .
Now I’ve been vague about the book and I don’t know why it isn’t a vague book , list a dam hard one to pass over its sheer brilliance fully .The nearest to it would be Sebalds work it has same feel of a mind at work musings become digression become little stories or thoughts even a mix of pictures like Sebald had .Leopardi would another writer that this book has reminded me of is Zibaldone by Leopardi Nooteboom is exploring ideas the idea of sea and the nature of Poseidon , rather the same way Leopardi constantly muses of the way language evolved , Nooteboom exams how even now we view the god of the sea .Now this book yet again shows me Stu why I always highlight Cees Nooteboom as a potential Nobel winner as he has such vast skill , I really need to try his poetry next I think or hope his first novel which he mentioned in the interview as one to read published .I’m just sorry it took me a few months to review this book as it is one I feel most readers of this blog will get something from .
Have you read Cees Nooteboom ?