x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Book review: Cees Nooteboom remembers Germany's postwar years

Roads To Berlin, Cees Nooteboom's recollections of postwar Berlin, teem with the changes that were once fresh in the winter air of continental Europe.

Roads To Berlin
Cees Nooteboom (translated by Laura Watkinson)
Maclehose Press

An eventful couple of years in Germany could be the easiest way to sum up Roads to Berlin, but that description would not do justice to Cees Nooteboom's recollections of postwar Berlin. A witness to the most important moment in the country's road to reunification, the author's pages teem with the changes that were once fresh in the winter air of continental Europe.

In 1989, Nooteboom watches as patriotic fever sweeps through Berlin. Crowds pour in to celebrate the Wall's removal, while in another present, years later, these same citizens complain about the scramble for property as Germany settles into a cautious but prosperous routine.

Nooteboom takes note of all these things, along with anything else that diverts him from daily politics, including architecture, landscapes, mythology and even finds space to present the occasional sonnet or two.

A curious mind and the free spirit of a traveller usually infuse a good travelogue and both these qualities are present in abundance within Roads to Berlin.