In Lost Paradise, Nooteboom, a cerebral, experimental writer renowned in his native Netherlands (indeed throughout Europe) and consistently on the short list of Nobel Prize candidates, uses earthbound notions of hell and paradise, a few lines from Milton and an angel or two to construct a story of two people who meet at a literary festival in Perth, then again years later across a massage table at a mountain spa. Along the way, he brazenly explores notions of reinvention, healing, loss and the divine.
The New York Times
Nooteboom's characters are gripping, his dialogue humorous and his narrative brimming with musings about identity and redemption. His genius, however, is his seamless integration of contemporary, mythic and historic images…Nooteboom is a novelist of big themes, but he is never heavy-handed. He embeds philosophical musings in observations of the commonplace, so that his ideas sneak up on you, appearing unexpectedly, breathtakingly, like angels hidden in abandoned cupboards.
The Washington Post
Eminent Dutch novelist Nooteboom (All Soul's Day) weaves an imaginative tale of redemption from the intersecting lives of travelers. After surviving a gang rape in São Paulo, a young, affluent Brazilian woman, Alma, takes off for Australia with her best friend, Almut: the two plan to train as masseuses. Nooteboom then cuts to an embittered middle-aged critic, Erik Zondag, who is cast out of his home in Amsterdam by his fed-up younger girlfriend and sent to an Alpine spa in order to dry out and become a "different man." The first part of the novel tracks the two Brazilians as they travel though Australia with hope of stopping at the legendary Aboriginal Sickness Dreaming Place. Their Australian adventures take a turn involving the Angel Project, a multisite piece of participatory art in Perth. For the second part, Eric endures a punishingly ascetic stay at the Alpine spa, where he recognizes his masseuse. Framed by masterful reflections on misunderstandings in life and literature, Nooteboom's short work, at once delicate and chiseled, achieves a dreamlike suspension of time and place. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
This noted Dutch author's latest novel is thought-provoking and succinct, with vaguely surreal undertones. An author boards a plane; skims articles in an on-flight magazine about Brazil, Australian Aboriginal art, and small Austrian cities; daydreams about a female passenger; then writes part of an introduction for a book on angels. Out of these elements, a story seems to emerge. A wealthy young Brazilian woman named Alma survives a gang rape in the slums of São Paolo. Her best friend, Ahmut, accompanies her to Australia to help her forget the trauma. Alma has a brief, cold-blooded affair with an Aboriginal artist, after which she and Ahmut take jobs as angels, participating in an elaborate publicity stunt staged in Perth during an international writers' conference. Abruptly, the scene shifts to Erik Zontag, a Dutch literary critic, as he travels to Austria for a week of indulgent deprivation in a health spa, which leads to a surprising connection with the earlier narrative. Woven throughout the accessible text are reflections on travel, relationships, and the hollowness of postmodern life, played against Milton's Paradise Lost. Highly recommended.
An astonishing tale of a beautiful art student seeking her soul in Australia's Outback. Hungry for a rush, Alma jumps into her mother's "second car" and, sound-system blaring Bjork, speeds into Sao Paulo's Parais-polis, its bleakest favela or slum. So starts a masterpiece by visionary Dutchman Nooteboom (All Souls' Day, 2001, etc.). Descending into this underworld, she's assailed, possibly gang-raped, pitched anyway into a "black cloud" of dark experience. She's a rare soul, drawn equally to songs of innocence as of experience, mad for Raphael, Botticelli, Giotto, any transcendent painting-"as long as there are wings." She has a thing for angels. Her best friend, Almut, who lines her own walls with "de Kooning and Dubuffet and all those disintegrating figures and faces," doesn't. She's Alma's reality principle, down-to-earth Aristotelian to Alma's Platonist spirit. The Brazilians, however, share a yearning: to visit the "Sickness Dreaming Place," Australia's oldest landscape, still primeval home to Aborigines who aren't tourist attractions but seers, artists, creatures. Arriving in Perth, the pair part ways-Almut to explore and party, Alma to fall in fleeting life-and-death love with an Abo painter, mute and a force of nature. Almut teases Alma about her "Noble Savage," but Alma is in fact transformed. The women then work an unlikely festival, playing "angels" for a city-wide extravaganza, wherein, like the "living statues" you see in Boston or San Francisco, actors mimic seraphim in malls or parking lots. Wings on her back, Alma is deployed by the organizers to lie still in a closet atop a staircase. Until another kind of lover arrives . . . Luminous. Numinous. Glorious.