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Cees Nooteboom

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Title: Mokusei
Author: Cees Nooteboom
Genre: Novel
Written: 1982 (Eng. 1985)
Length: 72 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Mokusei! - US
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  • A Love Story
  • Dutch title: Mokusei !
  • Translated by Adrienne Dixon

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a nice, fleeting love story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 2/3/1986 Janet N. Shaw

  From the Reviews:
  • "Their lovemaking, their struggles to become even more than to possess the other, blend with Pessers' equally fierce and equally hopeless battle to penetrate the mysterious and multilayered Japanese culture." - Janet N. Shaw, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Nooteboom already displayed a certain fascination for Japan in the book written right before this one, Rituals (see our review). In Mokusei ! (complete with emphatic exclamation mark) he reveals more of it, writing the slight but affecting impossible love story between a Japanese woman and a Dutch photographer.
       Arnold Pessers gets a photography assignment in Japan. He has a friend there, de Goede, who works in the cultural section of the Belgian Embassy. De Goede serves as a knowing tour guide, constantly pointing out and demonstrating the pitfalls of the seductive country. De Goede has the proper distance from Japan, and warns of the false expectations that foreigners have, acknowledging also that foreigners will never truly grasp the country.
       As in Rituals, Nooteboom balances the fascination with Japan with a very pragmatic outlook, and though there is a bit much of the "East is East, and West is West and never shall the twain meet", on the whole Nooteboom presents the country well and even faithfully.
       Pessers falls in love, and he conducts a long distance affair with a Japanese woman. She does not want to leave Japan, his work is in Holland. They lead an intermittent affair, Pessers coming when he can, on one occasion staying for as long as six months.
       It is, however, an impossible love, and a doomed one. Nooteboom handles this well as well, not going too far overboard on the supposed mystery of Japan. There are masks and photographs, reality and illusion, but Nooteboom weaves it all together nicely enough.
       It is a very slight book, but a nice read. Recommended.

       Please note that while this book has been translated (it is now out of print) this review refers to the Dutch original.

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Mokusei!: Reviews: Cees Nooteboom:
  • Other books by Cees Nooteboom under review: Other books of interest under review:
    • See Index of Dutch literature

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    About the Author:

           Dutch author Cees Nooteboom was born in 1933. He is a poet, novelist, and travel writer.

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