THE KNIGHT HAS DIED by Cees Nooteboom


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Once again, Nooteboom (Philip and the Others, In the Dutch Mountains, etc.) offers a metafictional account of a writer, this time set on a Mediterranean island with a group of expatriates--mostly supercilious or insufferable characters inclined to much posturing. The novelist Andre Steenkamp has died, and the narrator--an acquaintance of his (""His book was to have been a book about a writer who died"")--is telling the story of Steenkamp's sojourn on the island, though he's also trying to piece together the novelist's unfinished book. Along the way, the boundary between fact and fiction blurs at several points, and seldom has the present-tense been so mannered. The expatriates with whom Steenkamp becomes involved include Cyril, who ""envelops him [Steenkamp] in a woolen cloth of stories and fables""; Philip North, an American poet; Andrew Schramm, a painter; and Clara, a sort of femme fatale (""she puts her teeth into your bright soul and sucks the essence out of it""). Between taxi rides, encounters with the locals, and love affairs, Steenkamp prattles on: ""Writing isn't work. Writing is being""; ""I am becoming less."" Or this (to an innocent request for his thoughts): ""I am not thinking, I am working."" Or this come-on to Clara: ""I am so immortal you have no idea, I am immortal, I am immortal."" Then, after they're lovers: ""Theater again. . ."" After this portrait of the artist as a precious fool, reality and dream finally merge--fistfights, a bullfight, Cyril's fatal heart-attack--and the narrator, trying to imagine Steenkamp's life, realizes that ""I now need only to let him die."" Psychodrama--posing as a meditation on the artistic imagination--that's far too flimsy and obvious to be very interesting as fiction.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1990
Publisher: Louisiana Univ. Press