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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY DAVID MITCHELL.One morning Herman Mussert wakes up in a hotel room in Lisbon, where twenty years previously he slept with another man's wife.
"The Following Story (Het volgende verhaal in Dutch) began its life as a free book, given away during Boekenweek (Book Week), but has risen to such importance Vintage Classics now publishes it. The work won writer and poet Cees Nooteboom the European Union Prize for Literature and it helped put him up for consideration for a Nobel Prize. The Following Story opens with narrator Herman Mussert waking up in a hotel room in Lisbon, a curious occurrence as he went to sleep the night before in his apartment in Amsterdam. Mussert soon realizes it is the very same hotel room where had he engaged in an affair with the wife of a colleague. The 64-year-old former school teacher, recognised by the hotel staff and fluent in Portuguese, recounts the events leading to his dismissal as a Latin and Greek instructor as he spends time in the city. He has become a travel writer to support himself but is forced to publish under a pen name, as he shares a surname with (though no relation to) the founder of the Dutch Nazi party. Eventually, Mussert boards a ship destined for Brazil, a journey that culminates in the book’s title. Nooteboom’s strength in description seeps through the book. He describes opening a can of beans as ‘one of the most sensual experiences.’ ‘The sensation of the tin-opener ripping through metal, the unmistakable toc as you pierce the air-tight tin and you get a whiff of the contents, the way it guides itself round the rim and the indescribably sound that goes with it.’
Translation The book was translated by Ina Rilke who also translated the Dutch classic Max Havelaar, as well as W. F. Hermans’ The Darkroom of Damocles and Beyond Sleep. She does smooth and competent job in turning the work’s creative language into English, making for an easy and poetic read. Nooteboom’s dozens of novels and poetry collections have taken home nearly every Dutch language literature prize and The Following Story was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year when it was published in the United States. His works are wide-ranging and he’s also a successful travel writer and has even penned song lyrics for a previous girlfriend, Dutch singer Liesbeth List. At less than 100 pages, The Following Story can easily be read in an afternoon and showcases the strengths of one of the Netherlands’ great writers."
Read more at DutchNews.nl :Reviewed by Molly Quell