Cees Nooteboom

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Cees Nooteboom (2011)

Cornelis Johannes Jacobus Maria (Cees) Nooteboom [ seːs noːtəboːm ] (born July 31, 1933 in The Hague ) is a Dutch writer. His work includes novels , short stories , travelogues and poems ; he was also active as a journalist and literary critic . In the Netherlands, his debut novel Philip and the others from 1955 was already widely received and awarded the Anne Frank Prize ; However, it was only the novel Rituale from 1980 that attracted international attention . In Germany, the author has reached a wide audience since his novella The following story was published in 1991.

Nooteboom has received numerous prizes and awards, including two honorary doctorates, as well as the 2009 Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren , the most important in the Dutch language. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages.


Youth and literary beginnings

Nooteboom lost his father in early 1945 in a misdirected British bombing raid on the Bezuidenhout district of The Hague ; his parents had been divorced since 1943. His mother remarried in 1948; At the instigation of his strictly Catholic stepfather, Nooteboom then attended monastery schools run by Franciscans and Augustinians . According to his own information, he was drawn to the ceremony there , but not to the dogmatics , and he left school early.

From 1950 Nooteboom worked at a bank in Hilversum and took odd jobs. In 1953 he began extensive travels through Europe , often as a hitchhiker . These journeys inspired his first novel Philip en de others (1955; Eng: Paradise is next door , 1958); he was awarded the Anne Frank Prize (1957) and accepted into the school canon , thus making his author immediately known in the Netherlands. In Germany, the novel only reached a wide audience in the new translation Philip and the others (2003) by Helga van Beuningen .

Travel reports and poetry

Ron Kroon : Nooteboom & Liesbeth List (1967)

In 1957 Nooteboom hired on a ship to the Caribbean as an ordinary seaman , in order to ask the father of his bride Fanny Lichtveld for her hand in Suriname . The two married against his will, but separated again in 1964. The experiences of this trip were reflected in the stories of the band De ranfde gevangene (1958; German: The prisoner in love. Tropical stories , 2006).

Nooteboom's second novel, De Ridder is gestorven (1963; Eng .: The knight died , 1996), was 17 years his last. During this time, mainly numerous travel reports became known. Nooteboom owes his reputation as a travel writer to this, although he sees himself primarily as a poet .

The first volume of poetry appeared as early as 1956 ( De doden zoeken een huis. Poems ), others a few years later . A first selection appeared in Germany in 1964 ( Organon-Poesie , translated by Heinrich G. Schneeweiß). Nooteboom also translated poems into Dutch and wrote lyrics, a. a. for Herman van Veen and Liesbeth List , with whom he lived for a while.

Attempts to write for the theater were largely unsuccessful.

Activity as a journalist

Nooteboom worked a. a. for the Dutch magazine Elsevier (1957–60) and the daily newspaper De Volkskrant (1961–68). In 1967 he became an editor at Avenue magazine ; he was initially responsible for the travel department, from 1977 also for poetry .

As a reporter he reported on the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and on the VI in 1963. SED party congress and 1968 on the student unrest in Paris (collected in the volume Paris, May 1968 ). In the late 1970s he wrote about the coup in Iran and from November 1989 on the collapse of the GDR .

For his essay collection Berlijnse notities (1990; German: Berliner Notizen , 1991), which combines records of visits to Berlin in 1961, 1963 and 1989/90, he received the first literary prize on October 3rd in 1991.

Breakthrough as a narrator

The novel Rituelen (1980; German: Rituals , 1985) helped Nooteboom to become internationally known. He received the Mobil Oil Company's 1982 Pegasus Literature Prize , which funded an English translation and translated into other languages. In 1989 Herbert Curiel made a film based on this model. After his carefree first work, Nooteboom had reflected a lot on the process of writing and the relationship between reality and reality in various literary genres, which contributed to the much more distant and ironic style of rituals compared to earlier works . In the short story Een lied van schijn en wezen (1981; German: A song of appearance and being , 1989) and the short novel In Nederland (1984, German: In the Dutch mountains , 1987), Nooteboom made these reflections an explicit topic . In both cases he tells both a story - in the case of In Nederland a modified form of the art fairy tale The Snow Queen - and the story of its fictional author, addressing problems of the writing process and the author's position on the work.

The novella Het volgende verhaal (1991; German: The following story ) brought the author, after an enthusiastic review by Marcel Reich-Ranicki, the commercial breakthrough in Germany. The novel Allerzielen (1998; German: Allerseelen , 1999) also achieved worldwide distribution, but received special attention in Germany, as the city of Berlin is the setting and its history as a divided city is one of its central motifs. The author is now being received more intensively in Germany than in his home country; It is significant that the German edition of the Nootebooms Hotel collection (2000) appeared before the Dutch one.

The 70th birthday

Nooteboom's 70th birthday on July 31, 2003 was an occasion in Germany to take a closer look at the author and work. Since then, Suhrkamp Verlag has published a nine-volume collection of works in which some texts are available in German translation for the first time.

The documentary Hotel Nooteboom - A Picture Journey into the Land of Words (2003) by Heinz Peter Schwerfel combines interviews with Nooteboom and some of his friends (including Connie Palmen and Rüdiger Safranski ) with landscape shots and readings from various books by the author.

Cees Nooteboom now lives with his wife Simone Sassen in Amsterdam and Menorca. On the Balearic Island as well as on Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands, the poems of his poetry volume Mönchsauge (Suhrkamp 2018) almost “came about by themselves”.

Significance in Dutch literature

Abroad, especially in Germany, Nooteboom is considered to be more important in contemporary Dutch literature than in the Netherlands itself. Among other things, this was expressed in the fact that Nooteboom was in Germany in the early 1990s by critics such as Marcel Reich-Ranicki and Rüdiger Safranski for the Nobel Prize for Literature , while it is only mentioned in subordinate clauses in the standard work Nederlandse Literatuur, een geschiedenis zur Dutch literature, which was written at the same time . In addition, Dutch literary criticism often speaks of the “big three” of post-war literature, including Willem Frederik Hermans , Harry Mulisch and Gerard Reve , but not Nooteboom. Ralf Grüttemeier takes the view that this cannot be explained either by a fundamental overvaluation of Nooteboom's texts in Germany or by an undervaluation in his home country. Rather, it plays a role that Nooteboom has always been an outsider in the literature business in his home country, while the Suhrkamp publishing house has made him known to a wide audience in Germany through numerous readings, among other things.


"He who looks / doesn't break / sees nothing." ( The face of the eye , 1989)


Novels and short stories

  • Philip en de others (1955, German Philip and the others , 1958/2003, formerly under the title Paradise is next door )
  • De ridder is storven (1963 ) The knight died in 1996
  • Rituelen (1980, Ger. Rituals , 1985)
  • Een lied van schijn en wezen (1981, Eng . A song of appearance and being , 1989)
  • In Nederland (1984, Ger. In the Dutch mountains , 1987)
  • Het volgende verhaal (1991, The following story )
  • Allerzielen (1998, German Allerseelen , 1999)
  • Paradijs Verloren (2004, German Paradise Lost , 2005)
  • 's Nachts komen de vossen ( 2009) The foxes come at night , 2009


  • De doden zoeken een huis (1956)
  • Koude poems (German cold poems , 1959)
  • Het Zwarte Gedicht ( The Black Poem , 1960)
  • Gesloten poems ( Closed Poems , 1964)
  • Gemaakte poems ( present, absent , 1970)
  • Open als een schelp - Dicht als een steen ( Open like a shell, closed like a stone , 1978)
  • Carrion. Poems (1982)
  • Het landschap verteld. Paesaggi narrati ( Paesaggi Narrati , 1982)
  • Vuurtijd, ijstijd. Poems 1955–1983 (1984)
  • Het gezicht van het oog (1989, Eng . The face of the eye , 1991)
  • Water, aarde, vuur, lucht (1991)
  • Zo kon het zijn ( This is how it could be , 1999)
  • Bitterzoet, honderd poems van vroeger en zeventien nieuwe (2000)
  • The Sleeping Gods / Sueños y otras mentiras , artist book with poems by Cees Nooteboom and lithographs by Jürgen Partenheimer (2005)
  • Monk's Eye (2018)

Travel reports and stories

  • De rande gevangene (1958, Eng. The prisoner in love. Tropical stories 2006)
  • Een middag in Bruay. Rice Failure (1963)
  • One night in Tunisia (1965)
  • Een ochtend in Bahia (1968)
  • Bitter Bolivia. Maanland Mali (1971)
  • Een avond in Isfahan (1978)
  • Voorbije Passages (1981)
  • Mokusei! eendiedesverhaal (1982, Eng . Mokusei! A love story 1990)
  • De Boeddha eighth de schutting. Aan de oever van de Chaophraya (1986, German The Buddha behind the wooden fence 1993)
  • De omweg naar Santiago (1992, German The detour to Santiago , most recently Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-518-45860-0 ).
  • Van de lente de last. Oosterse reizen (1995, Ger. In the spring of the dew . Eastern journeys , collection of earlier travel reports)
  • Terugkeer naar Berlijn (1997, German return to Berlin 1998)
  • Nootebooms Hotel (2000, collection of earlier texts)
  • The lady with the unicorn. European Travel (2000)
  • The island, the land. Stories from Spain (2002)
  • Red rain. Easy Stories (2007)
  • On the other cheek of the earth. The Americas: Travels in the Americas (2008)
  • Ship's Diary: A book of distant journeys . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuningen. With photos by Simone Sassen. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2011. ISBN 978-3-518-42227-4 .
  • Letters to Poseidon . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuningen. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2012. ISBN 978-3-518-42294-6 .
  • Venetian vignettes . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuningen. With photographs by Simone Sassen. Insel, Berlin 2013. ( Insel-Bücherei 1386)
  • 533 days of reports from the island . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuningen. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3518-425565
  • Travels to Hieronymus Bosch. A dire premonition . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuningen. Schirmer and Mosel, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-8296-0746-9 .
  • Venice. The lion, the city and the water . From the Dutch by Helga van Beuninge. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-42854-2 .

Collections of essays and reports

  • Nooit gebouwd Nederland (1980, German never built Netherlands 2000)
  • Berlijnse notities (1990, German Berliner Notizen 1991)
  • De ontvoering van Europa (1993, how do you become a European? )
  • Zelfportret van another. Dromen van het eiland en de stad van vroeger (1993, German self-portrait of someone else. Dreams of the island and the city of yesteryear )
  • Paris, May 1968 (2003, collection of reports from the 1950s and 1960s)


  • De zwanen van de Theems (1959)

Hardcover of the collected works at Suhrkamp, ​​edited by Susanne Schabe

  • Volume 1: Poems (Contains Cold Poems; The Black Poem; Closed Poems; Present, Absent; Open like a shell, closed like a stone; Carrion; Paesaggi Narrati; The face of the eye; So it could be; Encounters (2001); A trail in the white sand (2002); Three loose poems (2002); Back and forth - letters to a poet (2003).)
  • Volume 2: Novels and Stories 1 (Contains Philip and the others; The prisoner in love; The knight has died; Rituals; A song of appearance and reality; Mokusei! A love story. )
  • Volume 3: Novels and Stories 2 (Includes In the Dutch Mountains; The Buddha Behind the Wooden Fence; The Following Story; All Souls' Day. )
  • Volume 4: Auf Reisen 1 - From here to there (Contains Between Sea and Sea; The shape of the sign, the shape of the city; Jordaan; Rotterdam; I have now committed myself to Spain; The island, the country; The detour to Santiago ; To the end of the world. )
  • Volume 5: Auf Reisen 2 - Europäische Reisen (Contains The memory puts its foot in the door; Berlin notes; The story blurs its traces. )
  • Volume 6: Traveling 3 - Africa, Asia, America, Australia (contains The shock of the unknown is made of lust; And behind the hill another hill: Eastern journeys; The path writes itself: South American journeys; Everything is so simple. The world is a reference: Travel through the USA; In the silence the creation sings: Travel through Australia and the South Seas. )
  • Volume 7: Auf Reisen 4 (Contains willful murder; The King of Suriname; An afternoon in Bruay; A night in Tunisia; A story from Saint-Tropez; A morning in Bahia; Paris, May 1968. )
  • Volume 8: essay and feature sections (contains whoever travels constantly is always with himself; history is all that was the case; the beginning, the one line, the few words; I want to go from the left into the landscape; elapsed time, Preserved time; The notaries of disappearance: scattered texts; My file is in the basement. )
  • Volume 9: Poetry and Prose 2005-2007 (Contains Paradise Lost; Tumbas (essays); The Gardens on the Path of the Moon (stories); Shrouded in secrets (travel stories); Writing is a solitary affair (essays); The dream of forbidden travel (Poems).)





  • Alexander von Bormann: Cees Nooteboom . In: Heinz L. Arnold (ed.): Critical lexicon for foreign-language contemporary literature - KLfG . Loose-leaf edition, 41st subsequent delivery. Edition text + criticism .
  • Daan Cartens (ed.): The eye man Cees Nooteboom . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2002, ISBN 3-518-38860-6
  • Ralf Grüttemeier, Maria-Theresia Leuker (ed.): Dutch literary history. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-476-02061-1 , pp. 285-289
  • Alexander von Bormann: "Europe is not, it wants to become". The affiliation of the outsider. Pictures of Europe in CN's work in: Dutch contemporary literature series: Encounter with the Neighbors, Volume 2. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, St. Augustin 2004, ISBN 3-933714-95-8 , pp. 119-139

Web links

Commons : Cees Nooteboom  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Cees Nooteboom: The Smell of Gasoline. Or how the Second World War ended for me . Translation of Helga van Beuningen. In: NZZ , May 2, 2015, p. 27 f.
  2. Poetry in which you can feel wind and water , review in Deutschlandfunk Kultur on May 4, 2018, accessed May 7, 2018
  3. ^ Ralf Grüttemeier: After the Second World War. In: Ralf Grüttemeier and Maria-Theresia Leuker (eds.): Dutch literary history. JB Metzler, 2006, ISBN 978-3-476-02061-1 , p. 288
  4. Travel miniatures Magical City on Swamp , Review by Carola Wiemers in Deutschlandradio Kultur from January 5, 2014
  5. ^ Publisher's text
  6. Cees Nooteboom receives literary award of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 2010. Press release of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on 8 April 2010
  7. Horst Bienek Prize for Poetry: Cees Nooteboom awarded , Börsenblatt dated November 28, 2018, accessed November 30, 2018
  8. [1] , infobae.com of April 29, 2020, accessed May 4, 2020