7 January 2008

Cees Nooteboom, The Following Story, 1991

A Dutch teacher and classical scholar goes to sleep in Amsterdam and inexplicably wakes up the next morning in Portugal, in a hotel bed in which twenty years before he slept with another man’s wife. But this Kafka-esque premise goes in a very sardonic direction and is delivered with a sharply observant humour, as the protagonist roams back and forth in his life seemingly searching for clues. The Following Story covers a lot of ground in its brief 97 pages but there seems to be no place at which you can say with certainty “ah, so that’s what the author is getting at” as it is constantly moving on to the next thing, never chronologically, but evidently with Nooteboom’s own sequential thought processes, perhaps making it an analysis of fulfillment by taking the reader through a game of join-the-dots in prose – one in which if you haven’t arrived at a clear picture by the end, makes you want to start again for another try. Very enjoyable, despite Nooteboom’s habit of disorienting the reader, which almost seems wreckless at times.   PY

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