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The Following Story

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  1,009 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Herman Mussert went to bed last night in Amsterdam and wakes in Lisbon in a hotel room where he slept with another man’s wife more than twenty years ago. Winner of the European Literary Prize for Best Novel, and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Translated by Ina Rilke. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 22nd 1996 by Mariner Books (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,989)
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Glenn Russell
Aug 19, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Anybody reading these words probably knows the Dutch poet and novelist Cees Nooteboom is one of the finest literary writers living in the world today. In the spirit of freshness, I would like to make several observations about this very short novel and the author in light of what 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, has to say about aesthetics and the art of the novel.

In the very first line of this short novel, Herman Mussert, the narrator and main character, tells us, "I have n
I've failed to write a review after finishing The Following Story and now, a month later, I'm tempted to lower the rating (and I'm doing it); the book didn't linger in my mind, the story was almost forgotten the moment I closed the covers.

You know the kind of book that is complex, with beautiful prose resembling poetry in its flourishes, that instead of the simple words uses an array of magically constructed phrases ... Well, The Following Story tried to be such a book, but didn't succeed - at
May 17, 2015 Cosimo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cronaca di un'estasi

“Il tempo è il sistema cui è affidato il compito di far sì che non accada tutto contemporaneamente”.

Fuori e dentro il racconto sta il ricordo di ciò che si vede nell'aldilà, il dono di Mnemosyne, le immagini e i frammenti insensati dei sogni e della fantasia, che è impossibile afferrare nella terribile maturità della vita; così Nooteboom penetra nelle stanze del caso e danza nell'oceano delle ombre, dando vita a un incommensurabile canto dell'essere, socchiudendo la porta del
May 22, 2011 El rated it really liked it
Cees Nooteboom lives in Amsterdam. And his name is Cees Nooteboom. Coolest, craziest name ever. No one living in Amsterdam with a name like Cees Nooteboom would write a normal story about normal, everyday sorts of things. That just doesn't happen.

A person living in Amsterdam with a name like Cees Nooteboom does write a quick little fable-like story about Herman Mussert who wakes up in a completely different place where he had gone to sleep the night before. Different country, different currency
Dec 27, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing
When asked by a patient of the particular institution for the mentally ill and dangerous in which I work, ‘What is it [the book] about?’, I, trying to give a quick, honest, understandable but final answer (i.e. limit the follow up questions to avoid crossing professional boundaries), opened my mouth and heard the words, ‘It’s about a man remembering his life.’ I don’t think I would have put it that way if I hadn’t been put on the spot. And it wasn’t until I did put it that way that I could reali ...more
M. Sarki
Apr 10, 2014 M. Sarki rated it liked it
My disappointment in The Following Story is of course only a temporary arrangement constructed as a forgettable dream here in my consciousness. But how a particular book can get so lost on a person like me is astounding. It does not happen often. There are books that arouse in me great feeling and others that relate the truth of who I am, but then others are dead as if I am too, and then I am left feeling totally disheartened. Long ago I quit beating myself up for not understanding a certain tex ...more
Jim Elkins
Jun 24, 2016 Jim Elkins rated it did not like it
Shelves: dutch
Ersatz Culture and Ostentatious Erudition

I was tricked by Nooteboom's continuing good reputation into reading another of his novels. He has the same slight tickling anxiety about what real culture might be, and the same skating fear of real profundity (caused, I think, by his own sense that he has no access to it), that drives people like Woody Allen to write compulsively about whomever they think is a major literary figure, or whatever they have heard is a major intellectual concept. Nooteboom'
Sep 15, 2010 abatage rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Hmmm. I might be ignorant and unwise to the true beauty of prose such as this, but for the most part: it's over my head. Is it because it's actually too high brow? Or is it because it's just not that good in the first place?

I'm not quite sure what this story was about, but I enjoyed some of the imagery. I gathered a few themes here and there that went all the way through - it's the 'plot' for want of a better word, that escapes me. In fact, I'm not sure what the point is at all.

I can accept th
Lukasz Pruski
Aug 23, 2015 Lukasz Pruski rated it it was amazing
"We will feel the draft blowing through the cracks in the structure of causality"

Is there such a thing as an impossibly beautiful book? Probably not, but Cees Nooteboom's "The Following Story" comes awfully close. So close that when I had finished reading the novella, I immediately read it again. It might not resonate with everybody, though: past a certain age, one subject tends to preoccupy one's mind, and Mr. Nooteboom writes, beautifully, about that subject. So while a younger reader will be
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

“La historia siguiente” es una de esas pequeñas novelas con las que de vez en cuando nos sorprende nuestro holandés favorito. En dos partes nos muestra una historia en retrospectiva de construcción de la identidad a través de sus dos grandes amores del pasado. Lo más curioso es que el protagonista, el profesor Herman Mussert, enseña lenguas muertas y utilizará constantes paralelismos que tienen que ver con los clásicos grecolatinos.
Lo bueno de
Dec 13, 2007 Jim rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who aren't in a rudh to read a book simply because it's short
Waking one morning in a hotel room in Lisbon having fallen asleep in his house in Amsterdam, the novel's central character – classical scholar, schoolteacher, writer of pot-boiler travel guides, misanthrope, adulterer – begins a journey that ends with a voyage to the origin of the river Amazon where he begins one final journey. He is unsure if he’s dead but it seems likely. He has not aged but he has also been transported back in time to a time when he finds himself embroiled in an affair with a ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Bob rated it really liked it
It starts out as the anti-Kafka - a man wakes up in his bed with the sensation that something is different but finds his body unchanged - instead, having gone to sleep in Amsterdam, he awakes in Lisbon, in the very hotel room where, 20 years earlier, the emotional high-point of his life took place, an affair with a fellow teacher. The narrator was a teacher of classics and refers to Ovid frequently but has now metamorphosed into a travel writer. He gradually tells the story of his one great sent ...more
Vincent Odhiambo
Feb 02, 2013 Vincent Odhiambo rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I could live in the middle of this book forever. Half the time I stumbled my way through the story reaching out for a sentence that would tether me to the narrative and half to every time I failed. You think this is an unbearable book? You wouldn't be further from the truth.
I don't know of a writer who takes the mickey out of himself at every turn as much as Cees does, a writer who never takes himself too serious deserves pride of place in my sanctum, however unhallowed it might be.
Most of the
Aug 25, 2013 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing
For the first third of the book (a novella of 115 pages), I vacillated between three and four stars, but Nooteboom's stream of speech prose swept me away. By the last dozen or so pages I was at four stars, but the denouement left me breathless and speechless.

The books opens with the narrator waking up - not unlike Kafka's classic tale, Metamorphosis.

It is swiftly move on to a deeper lever with Ovid's poetic masterpiece, Metamorphoses, ending with a reflection of the life and poetry of the class
Joe Cummings
May 14, 2015 Joe Cummings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps one of the best-known beginnings to a story is when Gregor Samsa wakes up in the beginning of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and discovers that he has become a large repugnant bug. In The Following Story which is Ina Rilke's 1993 outstanding translation of Cees Nooteboom's 1991 short novel Het Vogende Verhaal, Herman Mussert ponders if he's dead or alive as he starts to wake up one morning. As he opens his eyes, he realizes that he's in Lisbon although he was in Amsterdam went he went to ...more
May 09, 2014 Realini rated it liked it
The Following Story by Cees Nooteboom

This not a spoiler alert- I will not give the grand finale away, since I do not even know it. And this is the point: I will write about what this book made me think, possible emotions provoked…but they will have little to do with the plot.
The Following Story seemed to be off to a good start, albeit not my choice of reading material. I have a kindle, which after a couple of years died of exhaustion. So I am forced to take books in the backpack that I carry on
Guillermo Macbeth
Una novela breve y genial. Nooteboom narra como poeta. Su pulso narrativo está siempre en huida. Su estética personal se ubica con plena conciencia en el mundo actual desilusionado del lenguaje, del ser humano, de la realidad política, social e histórica. La lectura de esta novel genera en mi opinión una impresión muy fuerte, de conmoción, exaltación y perplejidad. Si bien el tema explicito -como en Patrick Modiano- es la construcción de la identidad mediante la exploración ficcional de una memo ...more
Ellen Voets
Dec 10, 2014 Ellen Voets rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
Mijn eerste gedachte was dit boek een één te geven, omdat het helemaal niet mijn genre is en ik er de helft van de tijd niet zoveel van begreep (onder andere door modernistische technieken en misschien ook doordat ik er soms te weinig aandacht aan gaf). Na dit boek te hebben besproken in de les, begrijp ik er echter veel meer over en vind het een meesterwerk!

Het boek, waarin verleden en heden, door elkaar lopen door talloze herinneringen, toont de reis van Herman Mussert. Deze reis is echter een
Sep 23, 2014 Semnebune rated it it was amazing
„Următoarea poveste” este o carte inedită aparținȃndu-i scriitorului olandez Cees Nooteboom. Apărută la editura Univers, vă invită să o parcurgeți dincolo de cotidian, ȋn culisele unei reverii fabuloase.

Profesorul Herman Mussert adoarme ȋn Amsterdam și se trezește ȋn Portugalia, ȋntr-o cameră de hotel, reprezentare simbolică a sufletului ȋn care conștiința intră și iese fără ȋngrădire. Astfel ȋncepe periplul său filozofic de-a lungul unor evenimente marcante, dar și al emoțiilor care le-au ȋnsoț
Nevena Kotarac
Jan 27, 2014 Nevena Kotarac rated it it was amazing
Na kraju jednog uobičajenog dana, neposredno prije nego što će usnuti, Herman Musret, bivši profesor latinskog, posmatra fotografiju Zemlje snimljenu iz kosmosa. Sledećeg jutra, kao usisan nekim neobjašnjivim talasom, Herman, koji je zaspao u Amsterdamu, budi se u hotelskoj sobi u Lisabonu. U tom gradu, baš u toj sobi, on se po prvi i jedini put približio plamtećem rubu ljubavi. Danas, kao star čovjek, osjeća da je u Lisabonu da bi nešto razriješio, da bi konačno stigao do nekih objašnjenja. On ...more
Oct 30, 2014 Raúl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficciòn
Corto,bonito y barato.Por el momento,mi escritor holandés favorito.
Aug 03, 2009 Marie rated it liked it
I enjoyed it - probably not most people's cup of tea, though. It's very stream-of-consciousness and if you're hoping for a science fiction or fantasy reason why our hero falls asleep in Amsterdam and wakes up in Lisbon, well, you won't get it. It's a dream. It's about death. But I enjoyed it very much.
Andres Varela
No encontré conexión con esta corta novela tan aclamada. La historia del personaje a través de su relación con este par de mujeres me resultó insípida, poco emocionante. Las referencias a la mitología lo hacen más aburrido aun y no por que esta sea aburrida, si no porque el personaje principal lo es, no tiene sangre, carece de toda la emoción de la mitología y la transmite como un texto muerto, como se siente él, como un muerto que "despierta" en otra ciudad y recurre a la memoria para volver a ...more
Mar 10, 2014 Marc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch-literature
The reviews on Goodreads make clear that this little book leaves no one indifferent: some find it purely drivel, others appreciate it as an ingenious work. I tend to the latter.
The negative comments probably are related to the confusion the reader has to undergo, whilst reading this novel. Nooteboom starts with presenting us a rather clumsy teacher of ancient languages in a college in Amsterdam, suddenly waking up in a room in Lisbon; then the author jumps through space and time, he drags in a p
Sep 24, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
An instant can last a long time. It can last as long as this short novel. If it were a long novel it could last that long. I don't think you can apply time to an instant.

Time is measured by our physical contact with the world... and with clocks. I think our soul measures time differently. Nooteboom is good with words. And he is great with ideas. When he puts the two together you get something like this book. It's short, in a physical sense, and long in a soulful way.

Herman Mussert goes to sleep
Mikael Kuoppala
Oct 29, 2012 Mikael Kuoppala rated it liked it
One of the still-fresh classic openings to a story is waking your protagonist up in truly perplexing circumstances. In Cees Nooteboom’s novel “The Following Story,” the character doesn’t wake up finding himself a bug, but him discovering himself hundreds of kilometers away from where he went to bed in is Kafkaesque enough and equally compelling.

Herman Mussert is the protagonist, a somewhat dislikeable loner, a forgotten scholar. His sleep has taken him from his Amsterdam home to a hotel room in
Sep 10, 2013 Stewart rated it it was amazing
The opening of this book is a simple but bizarre: the narrator, Herman Mussert, a former teacher of Latin and Greek in Amsterdam and now a writer of travel guides, wakes up one morning to find himself in a hotel room in Lisbon, Portugal. The evening before, he had gone to bed in Amsterdam. And the rest of the novella gets even stranger.
Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom was unknown to me until a few weeks ago when I read a listing of worthwhile books on aging and death in Bookmarks magazine. The li
Antonio Pena lafuente
Nov 21, 2014 Antonio Pena lafuente rated it it was ok
En general no me ha gustado. Me parece demasiado gratuito, en el que además usa un lenguaje que parece aprovechar el desconcierto para camuflar que este libro es practicamente todo paja; mucha floritura para personajes que son bastante simples.
Si tiene dos estrellas es porque al menos me gustaron las citas y referencias greco-latinas... pero poquito más. Muy vacío. No entiendo cómo este libro puede haber sido tan premiado.
May 30, 2016 Enzo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mi interessava leggerlo per l'ambientazione in due città che amo: Amsterdam e Lisbona. Ho trovato un libro pieno di straniamento nei personaggi e nei luoghi che attraversa in modo sulfureo, mai definito.
É un romanzo per chi ama il classicismo e i suoi insegnamenti, per chi é nel perenne dubbio di sapere e di capire, per chi magari preferisce una vita dietro il comodo artificio del dubbio piuttosto che al vivere la vita con passione e personalità. Non mi sono innamorato dei personaggi, nemmeno di
Printable Tire
The language was beautiful, and the insights were clever, sometimes even profound. The cover has nothing to do with the book and the title is lame (I keep on thinking the book is called Cees Nooteboom, actually).

The first part was especially eloquent and kept me reading, and was almost a satisfying story/situation in itself. The second part was in someways less fulfilling, as many of the concerns and voice of the first part were amputated, but I have a feeling that was the idea. At any rate, a f
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  • In de mist van het schimmenrijk: Fragmenten uit het oorlogsdagboek van de student Karel R.
  • De ijsdragers
  • Weerborstels
  • Transit
  • De zwaardvis
  • Serenade
  • Het theater, de brief en de waarheid
  • Spitzen
  • Een tafel vol vlinders
  • Das Wüten der ganzen Welt
  • De erfenis
  • De heilige Antonio
  • Palmwijn
  • First Gray, Then White, Then Blue
  • De val
  • Schaduwkind
  • De gelukkige klas
  • Noodlot
Cees Nooteboom (born Cornelis Johannes Jacobus Maria Nooteboom, 31 July 1933, in the Hague) is a Dutch author. He has won the Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren, the P. C. Hooft Award, the Pegasus Prize, the Ferdinand Bordewijk Prijs for Rituelen, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature and the Constantijn Huygens Prize, and has frequently been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in ...more
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“So-called real life has only once interfered with me, and it had been a far cry from what the words, lines, books had prepared me for. Fate had to do with blind seers, oracles, choruses announcing death, not with panting next to the refrigerator, fumbling with condoms, waiting in a Honda parked round the corner and surreptitious encounters in a Lisbon hotel. Only the written word exists, everything one must do oneself is without form, subject to contingency without rhyme or reason. It takes too long. And if it ends badly the metre isn't right, and there's no way to cross things out.” 4 likes
“All right, she thought I was a funny little geezer, but my charred Phaethon had impressed her, I was very obviously available, and she was out for revenge. What makes Greek tragedies great is that this brand of psychological nonsense doesn't enter into it at all. I had wanted to tell her that too, but unfortunately conversations consist for the most part of things one does not say. We are descendents, we do not have mythical lives, but psychological ones. And we know everything, we are always our own chorus.” 2 likes
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