x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Book review: In the Dutch Mountains, one of the most curious books you will ever read

A new translation of In the Dutch Mountains, Cees Nooteboom's modern adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen.

In the Dutch Mountains
Cees Nooteboom
Maclehose Press

This new translation of the renowned Dutch writer's work is one of the most curious books you'll ever read.

It concerns Alfonso Tiburon, a genial Spanish road inspector and amateur author. One summer, he sits down to write a modern adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen.

He sets his story in a mythical version of the Netherlands, stretching from flatlands in the north to a towering mountain range in the south.

His protagonists Kai and Lucia - who share the name of the characters in Andersen's story - are circus performers. When Kai is abducted and enslaved by the evil Snow Queen, Lucia heads out on a quest to save her beloved.

And as we progress, Tiburon continuously intersperses her adventures with his own meandering trains of thought.

These musings give Nooteboom the chance to allude to some weighty notions - such as the nature of solitude, the nuances of language and the purpose of religion. All this combines to make for a highly engaging, if somewhat strange work that should appeal to both casual readers and literary experts.

hberger@thenational.ae