Cees Nooteboom, hailed by A. S. Byatt as one of the greatest modern novelists, is one of Hollands most important authors. In Lost Paradise, Nootebooms most ambitious book yet, he sets out to uncover the connections between two seemingly unrelated travelers.
Alma, a young woman of German descent, leaves her parents Sao Paolo home on a hot summer night. Her car engine dies in one of the citys most dangerous favelas, a mob surrounds her, and she is pulled from the automobile. Not long after, Dutch novelist Erik Zontag is in Perth, Australia, for a literary conference and finds a winged woman curled up in a closet in an empty house. The intersection of their paths illuminates the ways in which the divine touches our lives.
With a beautiful stranger aboard a Berlin-bound flight and a haggard-looking man on a Holland train platform, Nooteboom builds a complex, haunting story of longing, regret, and rebirth in the dawn of the new millennium. Lost Paradise is an affirmation of our underlying humanity in an increasingly fragmented age, a deeply resonant tale of cosmically thwarted love.
No doubt this novel will be divisive, declared alternately a masterpiece, masterful, and a real "piece of work" by critics and readers of all stripes. Some of us don't like to work quite so hard to get to the bottom of things, while others find greatest pleasure in the challenge. Still others won't care about dissecting and distilling, choosing instead to read this slip of a novel for its dreamy, grainy-film-like qualities, suspended in time and just outside of the concrete world. (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Washington Post - Jennifer Vanderbes
Juxtapositions such as this -- eternity and flatulence -- give his fiction its weight and its delightful whimsy. 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.
Slate - Jess Row
Nooteboom structures the book as a succession of fleeting pleasures juxtaposed with large, permanent miseries, as if to suggest that a "global novelist," if there is such a thing, doesn't need a coherent pattern, a single consistent cosmology, to create a small, oddly beautiful work of art.
Entertainment Weekly - Hannah Tucker
his dreamy, philosophical novel can be read in one sitting, but its images and its funny, profound meditations on fate will haunt you much longer. A-
Both thoughtful and playful, this metafiction sometimes feels more like an essay than a novel, even spelling out the conclusion.
Framed by masterful reflections on misunderstandings in life and literature, Nooteboom's short work, at once delicate and chiseled, achieves a dreamlike suspension of time and place.
Luminous. Numinous. Glorious.
New Statesman - Alyssa McDonald
Calling a novel Lost Paradise invites a daunting comparison, but Cees Nooteboom has the reputation and the chutzpah to lay down a few gauntlets of this sort. He includes himself in a list of Dutch “literary giants” reeled off by one character, and remarks in the epilogue that the author of Lost Paradise “knew what he was doing”.
This self-reference could be irritating, but it’s tempered by a sense of playfulness and justified by the book’s content.
Nooteboom introduces us to Alma and Almut, best friends barely
out of teenagehood, as they leave their childhood homes in Sao Paulo, Brazil for
Australia. They're on a rather listless quest in search of The Dreamtime, an
Aboriginal concept of creation and spiritual existence with which the two best
friends have become enamored and obsessed. The psychological and spiritual
experience of The Dreamtime is notoriously impossible to explain to those
outside the secretive Aboriginal culture, but the basis for the belief is well
Considered by some to be the longest continuous culture on
earth, the Aborigines are the descendents of the first known human inhabitants
of Australia. Divided into over 500 tribal groups with about half as many
languages and countless dialects within them, they share a common belief system
based on what translates to "The Dreamtime" or "The Dreaming".
refers at once to a creation story, the ancient time of creation, and a parallel
spiritual cycle that...
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