These journeys of prizewinning Dutch novelist Nooteboom (Lost Paradise, 2007, etc.) are as much head trips as passages through space.
A footloose soul, the author finds within the cacophony of ever-changing milieus the composure in which to write. The feeling Nooteboom conveys of always floating several inches above the ground lends an appealing mystery to the places he visits. This MO works equally well for Zurich, where he admires the choreography of the swans in the lake, or the great square in Isfahan, where he conjures the heyday of mighty Persian Shah Abbas, who “once stood, lay, or sat, while watching the polo matches and races far below him. On such occasions the sides of the big terrace would be closed off, the silk curtains billowing in the wind.” These travels in the mind’s eye are supplemented by the author’s intensely observed experiences. Of a ratty, gray hotel in Mali he writes, “it does not get much uglier than this.” In Taourirt, Morocco, “I did see Death. Over in a dark corner where it is damp and cold, a pile of dirty rags lies moaning.” Nooteboom conveys the excitement of things he doesn’t understand, signs and languages he can’t decipher, a culture that rebuffs him and the refreshing shock of the wholly unknown. Yet he also finds a bemused thrill in the quotidian. At the Ritz in Barcelona, the mirror on the cupboard opens toward the bed: “this mirror must have reflected a thing or two, but it remains silent as the earth into which so many of those guests have already disappeared.” In his travels, Nooteboom discovers a balance of movement and peace, welcoming the indelible chance encounters that inevitably occur along the way.
A profound engagement with travel on the astral plane.