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Discovering the Dutch Mountains

In response to:

Look Homeward, Angel from the March 6, 2008 issue

To the Editors:

One word of J.M. Coetzee’s thoughtful review of Cees Nooteboom’s Lost Paradise [NYR, March 6] perhaps requires a comment. He refers to Nooteboom’s splendid In the Dutch Mountains, which is how it appeared in the English version, as “paradoxical.” I have always admired the translated title and am happy to explain the paradox. Nooteboom was, for a while, the manager of a nightclub singer who had an engagement in Suriname, probably in Paramaribo. There are mountains, flowers, wine, and guitars, if not Gypsies, and because that country used to be Dutch Guiana, the people speak Dutch. The Dutch mountains are in South America. It must have crossed Nooteboom’s mind that this was exactly the kind of relaxed and almost louche alternative that the Netherlandish soul dreams of and perhaps requires. And that, of course, is the subject of the book.

David R. Slavitt

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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