Cees Nooteboom is lauded in the U.K. for his novels, travel writing and now, after The Foxes Come At Night, his short stories, but very few people know that he is one of the Netherlands’ greatest poets.
Here he is reading at this year’s international poetry festival in Medellín, Colombia:
Well, the profile of Nooteboom’s poetry in the English-speaking world should now be raised somewhat by the of Self-Portrait of an Other: Dreams of the Island and the Old City, translated by David Colmer. American poet Ron Slate has reviewed it on his blog, On the Seawall.
Cees Nooteboom’s name appears perennially on the long list of candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in 1933 in The Hague, he is one of the world’s most accomplished and adventurous writers, having produced 14 books of fiction and 26 non-fiction titles (mainly travel narratives). Eight of his novels are or were available in English translation, including his fourth novel Rituals (LSU Press, 1983), his most famous work.
Seventeen years lapsed between the Dutch publication of his third novel and Rituals in 1980, during which he emerged as The Netherlands’ greatest poet. But unlike the verse of his peers Tomas Tranströmer and Zbigniew Herbert, his poetry is barely known in America. He has published 14 books of poetry in Europe – yet his Wikipedia custodians fail to list the single volume of English versions, The Captain of the Butterflies (Sun & Moon Press, 1997), a selection of splendid translations by Leonard Nathan and Herlinde Spahr.
Here, in an interview from earlier this year, he talks about his love of poetry and belief that it will make you a better writer: