Summary and book reviews of Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom

Lost Paradise

A Novel

By Cees Nooteboom

Lost Paradise
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Oct 2007,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2008,
    160 pages.

    Publication Information

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Book Summary

Cees Nooteboom, hailed by A. S. Byatt as “one of the greatest modern novelists,” is one of Holland’s most important authors. In Lost Paradise, Nooteboom’s 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 city’s 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.

PROLOGUE

‘The pronoun I is better because more direct.’

From ‘The Secretaries’ Guide’, in the section ‘The Writer’, New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, 1952


Dash 8-300. heaven knows, I’ve flown in all types of aircraft, but this is the first time I have ever been in a Dash. It’s a small, compact plane, though it feels bigger because there are very few passengers. The seat next to me is empty. Apparently not many people are interested in flying from Friedrichshafen to Berlin-Tempelhof. Our forlorn little group of passengers walked from the no-frills terminal to the plane – you can still do that here – and is now waiting for take-off. The sun is shining, there is a stiff breeze. The pilot, already up front, fiddles with the knobs. I hear the co-pilot talking to the control tower. Empty moments like these are familiar to anyone who does a lot of flying.

The engines have not been ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review Members Only (951 words).

Media Reviews
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-

Booklist

Both thoughtful and playful, this metafiction sometimes feels more like an essay than a novel, even spelling out the conclusion.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Beyond the Book

About the Dreamtime

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 documented.

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 ...

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