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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Following Story

Cees Nooteboom

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To purchase The Following Story

Title: The Following Story
Author: Cees Nooteboom
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng. 1994)
Length: 115 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: The Following Story - US
The Following Story - UK
The Following Story - Canada
L'Histoire suivante - France
Die folgende Geschichte - Deutschland
  • Translated by Ina Rilke
  • Awarded the Aristeion Literature Prize

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Our Assessment:

A : a clever and very entertaining story.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 21/6/1996 Desmond Christy
The New Yorker . 9/1/1995 .
The NY Rev.of Books A 1/12/1994 Gabrielle Annan
The NY Times Book Rev. B+ 16/10/1994 Penelope Fitzgerald
TLS . 21/1/1994 D.J.Enright
The Washington Post . 30/10/1994 Michael Dirda

  Review Consensus:

  Fairly enthusiastic praise, though some puzzlement about parts, and some disappointment regarding the second half of the book.

  From the Reviews:
  • "The first part of Mr. Nooteboom's book is a wonderful thing (.....) But I was disappointed in the ending (if it is an ending). Those ominous passengers (there's no crew except a barman) seem to have strayed out of a German Expressionist film, and the ship of death, as a metaphor, creaks." - Penelope Fitzgerald, The New York Times Book Review

  • "I do think, however, that the narrative loses some clarity in its second half; Herman's shipboard companions seem a trifle too ghostly and emblematic. Still, one could hardly ask for a more intelligent evening's entertainment than this short novel. Now all it needs is readers." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Herman Mussert, the narrator of this story, wakes up one morning and finds himself in a hotel room in Lisbon. An inexplicable occurrence, since he went to bed the night before at home, in Amsterdam. The hotel room is, however, familiar: Mussert had been there twenty years earlier. It was the scene of a defining moment in his life: he had slept with the wife of a friend there.
       That illicit union was a pivotal point in his life. Until then Mussert had been a teacher, of Classics, nicknamed Socrates. There was a beautiful girl at the school where he taught, Lisa D'India, and she had an affair with the sports coach (and inferior poet) Arend. Arend's wife, Maria, also a teacher at the same school then got her revenge by sleeping with their mutual friend Mussert. Lisa dies tragically in a car accident, the whole affair becomes public and all three teachers are fired.
       Mussert becomes a writer of travel guides -- under the name Dr. Strabo. He enjoys sufficient financial success, and is still able to occupy himself with Classical literature, but a sense of regret hangs over his life.
       Nooteboom weaves an interesting tale, though it is not entirely clear what has happened to Mussert and why (and to whom) he is telling his story. A dark sea voyage, with a load of unusual passengers, then also figures in the tale, less successfully than the earlier passages. Nooteboom has apparently suggested that the book covers the last two seconds of Mussert's life, one second of memory, and one second of the passing from life into death. Sounds plausible.
       However one wishes to interpret it it is a fascinating read, very well-told and with a very human touch to it. (In contrast to some of Nooteboom's other works, which might seem too coldly intellectual).
       Highly recommended.

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The Following Story: Reviews: Cees Nooteboom:
  • Other books by Cees Nooteboom under review: Other books of interest under review:
    • See Index of Dutch literature

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    About the Author:

           Dutch author Cees Nooteboom was born in 1933. He is a poet, novelist, and travel writer.

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