Cornelis Johannes Jacobus Maria Nooteboom was born on July 31st, 1933 in the Hague, in the Netherlands. Author of novels, poems, essays, plays and travel literature is regarded as one of the most original contemporary European authors.
At a very early age he lost his father, who died during a bombing raid, and was compelled to move to the country with his family. Maybe it was from that moment on that travelling and the sense for the “elsewhere” started to become so important to him as to develop into an existential model and literary metaphor for his future novels. After the end of the Second World War, at the age of thirteen, he attended Franciscan, Carmelite and Dominican colleges. In those places he developed his love for the classical culture and the aesthetic experience that we find in his essays and articles, but also his rebelliousness against all life’s strict conventions. After finishing his studies, he started travelling the world. He went to South America, working as a sea-boy on a ship, and in the beginning of the Fifties he hitch-hiked all over Europe.
A precocious talent, he debuted in 1955, when he was only twenty-two, with Philip en de anderen (Philip and the Others. LSU Press, 1988). This novel, considered an anticipation of the Beat Generation’s nomadic ideals and of Jack Kerouac’s book On the road, immediately became a great literary success.
Many more books were to follow it. His bibliography is wide and composite and, besides fiction, he didn’t neglect travel books and reportages.
He was a privileged reporter in Budapest in 1956, in Paris in 1968 and in Berlin in 1989. He was also a translator of Spanish, Catalan, French and German poetry as well as of works by playwrights such as Tennessee Williams and Sean O’ Casey.
Among his works published in English we can mention A Song of Truth and Semblance (1984), The Following Story (1994), Rituals (1983), Mokusei (1985), In the Dutch Mountains (1987), All Souls Day (2001), Lost Paradise (2007), Philip and the Others (1988), The Foxes Come at Night (2011), I had as much as a thousand lives and yet took only one with Rudiger Safranski (published in Italian in 2011) for fiction; Roads to Santiago (1997), The Buddha behind the board fence (1993), Nomad’s Hotel (2009) for travel literature; How does one become European? (1993) for essay writing; Self Portrait of an Other (1999), The gates of night (2003) for poetry.
For his works, published in thirty seven languages, he was awarded several prizes among which the Pegasus Prize (1982), the Aristeion Prize of the European Union (1993), the Grinzane Cavour Prize (1994), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2002), the Goethe Prize (2003), the European Poetry Prize (2008), the Dutch Literature Prize (2009), the Chatwin Prize (2010) and the Adenauer Prize (2010).
He divides his time among the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.