Nooteboom as traveller

Nooteboom has written about the phenomenon many times, about why it is that he always wants to pack his suitcases again. In ‘New York, stad van het verdwijnen’ from De zucht naar het Westen (1985), his collection of travel stories about America, he gives one of the possible motives: ‘The secret aim of all travel is integration with the local inhabitants. In New York you don’t require anything to do this; you are your own camouflage. Among Syrians, Polish Jews, Maoris, Italians and Vikings, you’re nothing but another shadow, another fraction (…). This is something that seems to frighten a lot of people. It excites me, although I still don’t know exactly why.’


‘Why do you do so much travelling?’ This is the question Cees Nooteboom has been asked most often. In ‘In het oog van de storm’ (In the eye of the storm), the opening essay of Nootebooms Hotel (Nomad’s Hotel, 2002), he quotes Ibn al-Arabi, a twelfth-century Arabian philosopher, who wrote that a voyage ‘is so called because it reveals people’s characters, or, to put it more simply, for the person who travels alone: On a journey you get to know yourself.’ From the same essay: ‘Maybe the real traveller is always in the eye of the storm. The storm is the world; the eye is that with which he views it. In the eye it is quiet and anyone who is in that place can make out things that pass by people who stay at home.’


Besides Nooteboom’s partner Simone Sassen, photographer Eddy Posthuma de Boer is probably the person who has most often accompanied the writer on his travels. They met in the mid-1950s and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Nooteboom travelled to Rio de Janeiro and asked Posthuma de Boer to take photographs – this was their first journey together. Nooteboom had already written many stories and articles for newspapers and magazines in the 1960s. In August 1968, their first joint piece appeared, a report with the title of ‘Bitter Bolivia’. Both men had a real urge to get out and about. They wanted to see the world, as they had been promised after the war. Travelling was a ‘hugely euphoric activity; you always rubbed your hands with glee as you set off on your travels again.’


‘The travel writer may best be compared to a photographer,’ wrote Nooteboom in 1982 in the Holland Herald, KLM’s in-flight magazine. ‘Photography is a more intense way of “looking”. No photographer simply travels. He cannot allow himself the luxury of just looking around. He does not see landscapes; he sees photographs, images of reality as it might appear in a photograph.’ In his photo book Voor het oog van de wereld (1996), Eddy Posthuma de Boer describes his friend as a restless traveller, who frequently improvises ‘in word and deed’. He alters the route, deviates from plans, decides in the morning that he wants to do something different than what he decided the night before. Posthuma de Boer saw him weighing up the pros and cons, ‘pondering and drawing on an enormous reservoir of longings, motives and intellectual notions. The good thing is that what he wanted from such a trip and what I had in mind myself was usually pretty similar. It still led to the same idea.’


From: Margot Dijkgraaf, Nooteboom en de anderen. Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 2009.

From: Margot Dijkgraaf, Nooteboom en de anderen. Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 2009.

 

A TRAVELLER OF THE WORLD

kaartAn overview of the many places in the world that Cees Nooteboom has described in his oeuvre. Click here


Travel writing


Een middag in Bruay. Columns, travel stories. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1963.


Een nacht in Tunesië. Columns, travel stories. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1965.


De Parijse beroerte. Essay. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1968.


Een ochtend in Bahia. Columns, travel stories. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1968.


Bitter Bolivia, Maanland Mali. Travel stories. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1971.


Een avond in Isfahan. Travel stories. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1978.


Voorbije passages. Travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1981.


Waar je gevallen bent, blijf je. Columns, travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1983.


De zucht naar het Westen. Travel stories. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1985.


Het Spaanse van Spanje. Travel story. De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam 1986.


De wereld een reiziger. Travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1989.


Berlijnse notities. Reportage, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1990.


Vreemd water. Travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1991.


De omweg naar Santiago. Travel stories, essays. Atlas, Amsterdam 1992.


De koning van Suriname. Verhalen. Muntinga, Amsterdam 1993.


De atlas van Cees Nooteboom. Travel stories with photographs by Eddy Posthuma de Boer. Atlas, Amsterdam 1993.


Van de lente de dauw. Oosterse reizen. Travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1995.


De filosoof zonder ogen. Europese reizen. Travel stories, essays. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1997.


Nootebooms Hotel. Travel stories, essays. Atlas, Amsterdam 2002.


Het geluid van Zijn naam. Reizen door de Islamitische wereld. Travel stories, poetry. Atlas, Amsterdam 2005.


Tumbas. Graven van dichters en denkers. Essay, portraits. With photographs by Simone Sassen. Atlas, Amsterdam 2007


Verleden als eigenschap. Kronieken 1961/1968. Edited by Arjan Peters. Atlas, Amsterdam 2008.


Berlijn 1989/2009. Reportage, essays. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 2009.


Journal de bord. Verre reizen. Travel stories. De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 2009.


These are all original titles in Dutch. For a list of translations, please see Bibliography.


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Romancier
Nooteboom’s debut novel, Philip en de anderen (Philip and the Others), came out in 1955. He was twenty-two years old at the time. Where did the inspiration come from? READ MORE


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still_dichter copy
Cees Nooteboom is known primarily for his novels and his travel books. As far as he is concerned, however, poetry comes first. READ MORE


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Many of Nooteboom’s essays deal with art, particularly those branches with a visual focus: painting, architecture, film and photography. READ MORE