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Cees Nooteboom

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To purchase Rituals

Title: Rituals
Author: Cees Nooteboom
Genre: Novel
Written: 1980
Length: 147 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Rituals - US
Rituals - UK
Rituals - Canada
Rituals - India
Rituels - France
Rituale - Deutschland
Rituali - Italia
Rituales - España
  • Dutch title: Rituelen
  • Translated by Adrienne Dixon
  • The 2013 UK MacLehose edition comes with an Introduction by A.S.Byatt
  • Winner of the Pegasus Prize
  • Winner of the F. Bordewijk Prize
  • Rituelen was made into a movie in 1988, directed by Herbert Curiel and starring Derek de Lint

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Our Assessment:

A : an excellent, thoughtful, touching novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 21/12/1984 Sheila MacLeod
The Washington Post . 26/6/1983 L.B.Osborne

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The complete review's Review:

       Cees Nooteboom's short novel is an excellent little work that is essentially about three suicides. The book begins with a short Intermezzo, set in 1963. Inni Winthrop's wife, Zita, leaves him and he commits suicide.
       Inni is a "dilettante in the Italian sense of the word." He has enough money to live comfortably. He dabbles in art dealing, writes a horoscope for a newspaper, and follows the stock and commodity markets. All in all he wanders through life without many cares or great ambition, and when his wife can no longer take it she leaves him. It crushes him -- hence the suicide -- but even in killing himself he achieves no resounding success, not managing to inflict fatal damage to himself.
       The longer sections of the book that follow recount Inni's encounters with two men, father and son, Arnold and Philip Taads, one in 1953, the other in 1973.
       Both Taads live in relative isolation, set to strict routines out of which they have made rituals that completely determine their lives. Inni is an observer, seemingly incapable of action that would alter these routines (presumably the reason both Taads let him in their lives).
       Each Taads is looking for some self-fulfillment. The father never had any contact with the son -- and neither could find in family any fulfillment. The father is not at all religious or spiritual, while the son turns to Japanese ideals and lives by these (though never wanting to visit the modern Japan, which he considers only a corrupted form of his ideal).
       Nooteboom tells the story very well as these three men look for their place in the world. He avoids the trap of idealization of the East, managing to pull off a green-tea ceremony and a few descriptions of yoga without sounding ridiculous or pompous, with Inni providing that proper skeptical point of view.
       The three sections each manage to be moving, the conclusions thoughtful and well done. Inni may seem too purposeless in his life, but Nooteboom adds some shadings to his character that help, and the others make for interesting contrasts.

       An excellent book, highly recommended.

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Rituals: Reviews: Rituelen - the movie: 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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