Saturday, June 04, 2011

Lost Paradise - Cees Nooteboom

Alma, a young Brazilian woman of European origin, travels to Australia with her friend Almut after she recovered from a physical assault and rape at a dark neighbourhood of Sao Paulo. She definitely needed a break before "a hate and rage so deep that they could swallow you up forever"  and sooner they were on the flight to Australia. Since the money is hard to come by, they have equipped themselves with the a qualification in Physical therapy ( that is one profession that can be used in any part of the world and can spare them from the jobs like waitresses etc) , which should fetch them a job and money for their living. Intrigued by the lives of aborigines they set out to explore their mystic world. The images and dreams one created around the way of aborigines soon turns to be a disappointment after a short term living with an aborigine artist and their few attempts to get to their settlement with few tips. It was at this time they were offered a role in the annual literary festival to dress like an Angel for the 'angel spotting tour' attraction.

On a parallel thread, writer and critic Erik Zondag, at the wrong end of middle-age, divorced living with his girlfriend almost half his age, working at a news paper as literary critic known for his in-famous stand against the new generation of writers and for taking 'potshots at few of the literary giants', is on the cross road of his life. His girlfriend tells him that he has no future. On her advise he takes a trip to an Austrian Spa which can rejuvenate himself.

The story converge here as Alma appears at the Spa as a replacement masseuse to Zondag. It is not their first encounter. Zondag, had met her during one of his trips to Perth on a literary event. The 'angel' he met and 'observed' part of the tourist fair at the Perth Festival is now back in his life across the continents at the physical therapy section at Austria. Crossing the paths again at a different continent , circumstances and different roles is no common.

Milton's Paradise lost looms over this in great influence. The quest for lost paradise in one's life, the angelic lives that appear in our earthly existence along with the images of heaven and hell, the quest for spiritual and existential side of the life is explored in a subtle and masterly way by the writer. From a non-existent theme and sparse participants with narrow story line, he creates a unique experience to the reader.

Lost Paradies is not a straight forward novel. It is a riddle and symbolic. May be,I havent been able to get the full of it as it is my first book of Nooteboom. This book might not be an opener to the world of Nooteboom's writing. However, one is left with the strong impression of a writer, with his unique style and imagination. A rather silly and absurd novel at the outset, is crafted into one transcendental and spiritual experience.
Lost Paradise ( 2004)

Cees Nooteboom ( translated from Dutch by Susan Massotty (2007) )

Vintage Books

151 Pages

Rs 475

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