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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In the Dutch Mountains

Cees Nooteboom

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To purchase In the Dutch Mountains

Title: In the Dutch Mountains
Author: Cees Nooteboom
Genre: Novel
Written: 1984
Length: 128 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: In the Dutch Mountains - US
In the Dutch Mountains - UK
In the Dutch Mountains - Canada
In the Dutch Mountains - India
Dans les montagnes des Pays-Bas - France
In den niederländischen Bergen - Deutschland
Le montagne dei Paesi Bassi - Italia
En las montañas de Holanda - España
  • Translated by Adrienne Dixon
  • The 2013 UK MacLehose Press edition comes with an Introduction by Alberto Manguel
  • The Dutch title of this book was originally In Nederland -- which could, surely, be translated as something like In Netherlands, a particularly apt title with two meanings -- but it was then apparently also published as In de bergen van Nederland, from which this English title was taken. We like the first version better.

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Our Assessment:

A : a clever, well-told story about -- among other things -- story-telling.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Rev. of Books . 17/7/1997 J.M. Coetzee
The NY Times Book Rev. B+ 11/10/1987 Michael Malone

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nooteboom's ambition is to write a meditation on the nature of fiction, constructed as a story of the writing of a fiction with authorial digressions that will at the same time reflect on (and reflect) the collapse, in our time, of the illusions that gave energy to the great fiction of the past." - J.M.Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

  • "The old-fashioned plot journey is blocked, bypassed or detoured, while characters become road signs for interpretative exegesis. The result is not page-turning, but page-cryptoanalytics." - Michael Malone, The New York Times Book Review

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:

       In the Dutch Mountains is a story within a story -- and a story about writing a story. Alfonso Tiburón de Mendoza is Inspector of Roads in Zaragoza. In his youth he spent some years studying in the Netherlands -- a country that resembles the Netherlands we are familiar with, but also differs from it in significant ways.
       Every August Tiburón goes to an empty schoolroom, gets behind one of the undersized desks, and writes. He is not a particularly successful author, not selling many copies of his books or achieving great renown, but he feels compelled to write, and he enjoys it.
       In this novel he both tells the reader about the writing of the story he is currently working on, and the story itself. The story is a simple fairy tale, set in this mythical Netherlands, where circus performers Kai and Lucia, too beautiful for their own good, lose their livelihood in the friendly North and head for the very inhospitable South. They are forcibly separated, then Lucia sets out to find Kai, then there is a not unexpected ending. Suspense is definitely not one of Nooteboom's (or Tiburón's) ambitions.
       Commenting all the while on the story, each detail of which seems, to author and reader alike, inevitable, Tiburón comments on writing and story-telling, analyzing and wondering about what he is doing. It is a clever little meta-fiction, neatly woven together by Nooteboom, and well-told.
       Some readers might be tired of such Calvino or Borges-like books, but Nooteboom has written several similar variations on such themes, and each has enough sparks of originality to hold the reader's interest. In the Dutch Mountains is a very entertaining book, and certainly recommended.

       Note: the original Dutch title was In Nederland (which works nicely in English as well, with the double-meaning of In Netherlands (i.e. Holland) / In Nether Lands). The book was then apparently retitled with the catchier (?) title, In de bergen van Nederland, from which the English title was taken. We still prefer the original title.

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In the Dutch Mountains: 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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