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Roads to Santiago

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  645 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Roads to Santiago is an evocative travelogue through the sights, sounds, and smells of a little known Spain-its architecture, art, history, landscapes, villages, and people. And as much as it is the story of his travels, it is an elegant and detailed chronicle of Cees Nooteboom's thirty-five-year love affair with his adopted second country. He presents a world not visible ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 13th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1992)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  645 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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There is a comment from author Paul Theroux suggesting that the tourist is certain, while the traveler is vague. Cees Nooteboom's Roads to Santiago: Detours & Riddles in the Lands & History of Spain is far more memoir than travel guide and the paths taken to reach Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, NW Spain are indeed vague--indirect, occasionally following back roads that become cul de sacs, at times quite whimsical peregrinations by a peregrino or pilgrim who travels by car rather than on foot ...more
Lukasz Pruski
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
" We are in too much of a hurry to remain dead for so long."

Another phenomenal book, non-fiction this time, from my favorite writer. While one cannot expect masterpieces every time from even the greatest authors Cees Nooteboom's Roads to Santiago (1993) reaches the upper regions of my rare five-star rating and deserves extremely slow reading to take full delight of the writing and to wallow in exquisite detail. I made notes about virtually each of the book's 340 pages and my review was originall
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
The sole deficit is its detail, some citations ran along and blurred (blanketed?) Nooteboom's intent. otherwise, it was as superb in long form as Nomad Hotel was in miniature. ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I completed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in October of 2018. This book was given to me as a sort of preparation for my pilgrimage, however I only just started it before I left for Spain and only recently returned to it. The book is in some ways dated. It was written in 1992. Nooteboom, a travel writer from Holland, often comments on the then current political situation in Spain referring to historical antecedents to illuminate the present. Of course that present has changed rather radica ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017, spain
2.5 stars. I'm not quite sure how to rate this. The writing is fabulous and the content is interesting enough, but this is not a book I want to sit down and read for an hour. Instead of reading straight through I picked the chapters that talked about the places I'll be visiting in Spain or explained periods of Spanish history that interested me. ...more
M. Sarki
An OK read, but I do like Cees Nooteboom's novels better. Visited too many church's for my tastes. Would have liked more story in the present rather than historical references. ...more
Katia N
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is not a travel book in a classic sense- the author gives you a window to the universe called "Spain" through his own eyes. He thinks aloud about its history, art and culture. And you are able to listen to his thoughts. Among other things, he talks about Velasquez, Zurbaran and Civil War's scars, Don Quixote and the Golden Age. He is enchanted by the Romanesque architecture and his visit to different churches takes a fair portion of the book which felt a little too much sometimes. But overall ...more
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
the urge for travelling concrete areas smothered by this time period, attempted to transform into voyaging mind spaces. This book helped a little bit, mapping Spain. Nooteboom used to be a favourite some years ago, but now ceases to be. Useless travelling around as a luxury is out, for several reasons. Time urges to uncover mind spaces themselves.
Wesley  Gerrard
The Dutch author is, most certainly, an admirer of Spain. He writes passionately about his travels across the land, traversing history, culture, and the role of Spain in the modern world. The style is erratic and it takes a while to get used to the author's jumpiness, but it all seems to weave together nicely. There are deep forays into the world of art and I found the detail on Velasquez most interesting and it is clear that Nooteboom holds a special place in his heart for the work of Zurbaran. ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A lovely book of Spain written by a man who has spent a considerable amount of time in the country for 20 years leading to the writing of the book. The topic is ostensibly the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela but the other meanders his way through much of the country, including parts of the Canary Islands, partly because it helps to explain the destination better but mostly it seems because he doesn't want the trip to end. And neither did I. His irreverence of the religious symbolism is appr ...more
Regina Sheerin
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Tough. A tough read and tough to review. Very dense, at times cerebral. Almost as much of a slog as the Camino de Santiago. However- full of fascinating history (especially of art) and captures beautifully a Spain that has all but disappeared. I am married to a Basque and have lived in Navarra for over 15 years, and have been in pretty much all of the provinces the author visits. He does a wonderful job describing the romanesque gems that are around every corner in the small villages. I particul ...more
my first cees nooteboom book, but not last now.
author has spent many decades traveling in spain, looking at art architecture food history travel religion war peace nature
basiclly, every single sentence nooteboom writes is a poem or an essay . incredible craftsmanship and poetry.

and, one of best books about spain i have read.

*Been busy building an opac, so just making placeholders for books I’ve read in march and april 2014. This is the opac though.

May 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
While talking to a friend in Los Angeles the other day, the Camino came up and I told him about a wonderful book I had read years ago, before coming to live in Spain. After we talked I thought, since it had been years since I read it, maybe now was a good time to read it again, since I liked it so much the first time.

This was the only book that had Santiago in the title, so I figured this was the book I was thinking of. But no. It is not. I suppose I read this years ago too, and maybe I liked it
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Cees Nooteboom was (is?) a Dutch novelist, and this book was apparently originally written in Dutch. I read it in English translation. The translation read very smoothly, with only one or two odd constructions, that may have been due to the translator being British. This book reminds me of the sort of evocative histories of Spain that I used to read when I was first learning about Spanish history back in high school, many, many years ago. Nooteboom was a highly l ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a travelogue! Like a road itself, sometimes so dry and dusty and Latinate and filled with erudite historical monuments the very words cracked and seemed not to bear the weight of my eyes. I skimmed a lot of verbiage (my mind not able to comprehend the learned references and outcrops of pure information). Yet at other times, when his account became personal and he described a monk or woman he had met, an encounter with a cathedral that he loved, a detail that moved him into history that exis ...more
Eternally  Dreaming of Libraries
"Anyone who finds present day politics complicated can comfort himself with a descent into history." My favorite thing about this travelogue were all of the historical portraits and the delving deep into the political issues of the time.

No scratch that, my favorite thing about this book was the author's love for Spain and the immense breadth of his knowledge about it. This doesn't read anything like some obligatory academic project in order to gain recognition or progress a career or anything o
Igor S
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely worth reading.
But do not expect it to be a travelogue. First of all, the essays, included into the book, were written mostly in 80th-90th of the XX century and may seem to have loose connection with the current meaning of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. It is rather a collection of short sketches about the different Spanish locations, visited by the author during his driving trips through Spain. And, as it seemed to me, Santiago de Compostella was not the target arriva
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
It felt a bit long but was worth it, like a pilgrimage I suppose. The author took a very round about road through Spain to Santiago. The book itself has little to do with anything in Santiago de Compostela but everything to do with a love of Spain. Spanish history, culture, people, art, religion, war, monasteries and churches, architecture, quiet little towns. The author spends a lot of time in places where most tourists will never go and never hear of. He seems to ponder the place, its history, ...more
Noteboom disappointingly doesn’t explain much in his book, leaving the reader feeling lost and stupid as they observe his conversation with himself. This is not a book about the Camino or a journey to Santiago, but, as the subtitle puts it, of detours and riddles in the lands and history of Spain. The history, however, it is often assumed the reader will already be intimately familiar with. Lovers of medieval architecture will enjoy bits of it, though, and some of the prose is exquisite.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? I loved it. This book is a perfect example of a sentimental journey. Although I’ve never been to Spain, I feel like I got a taste of the real thing.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Author more interested in Art than places, will write several places on a painting and one sentance on a town!
Jul 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Misleading title. A series of unrelated essays about travel in Spain with the merest mention of Santiago. Very poor effort.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meandering and hard to follow. It was not what I was hoping for in preparing to walk the Camino (it has almost nothing to do with it despite the title).
Zeljko Prstec
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Masterful. Insightful. Poignant. Not at all anticlimactic upon arrival.
Nov 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It reads like a blog. The stimulus is always a trip in the remoter parts of Spain, but the subject can be worlds away, and often thoughtfully abstract: how when tradition is forgotten the didactic religious sculpture in cathedrals becomes merely art, why Spanish (and English) became world languages through their colonies while Dutch was never really adopted elsewhere, the eccentricities of Borges, the notion that authors transform and live on in their readers when they die. Most of the ruminati ...more
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
well, I finished this, but it was hard work. It's a far cry from the limpid prose and down-to-earth details of the life of fishermen in Norman Lewis in Voices of the Old Sea. I found it intellectual and self-absorbed. Noteboom spends pages and pages describing every detail of various medieval paintings, and the descriptions are not helped at all by blurry black and whit reproductions on poor-quality paper. His focus is entirely on history, especially of art and architecture; people don't feature ...more
Elizabeth Adams
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I've been reading Cees Nooteboom's "Roads to Santiago," which chronicles the Dutch writer's circuitous pilgrimage (by car) through Spain, less in search of spiritual favors than for the spirits of Cervantes, Zurbarán, Velasquez, Romanesque churches and Cistercian monasteries, tiny villages hung in mountain valleys, virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages.

What I liked: the offbeat and circuitous nature of Nooteboom's journey and writing; he browses through Spain as if he's following one favorit
Ralph Britton
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, travel, history
I found this an irritating book. There are very interesting passages and unusual information, but too many of the author's musings that seem to me to be of little interest to others. On arriving at a place that you would give your eye-teeth to see he reflects on his own life and what the place inspires him to think about. Occasionally this gives a sharp sense of the place, but more often it does not and by about half way through I found myself skimming. I had visited some of the places in Spain ...more
Jeff Clay
Jan 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Roads to Santiago is an exquisite travel book brimming with history, landscapes, old churches and older villages. Like most travel writing of quality the book is also filled with internal dialogue, wry and sensitive observations, a sharp wit and a mastery of both the subject and language. Exceptionally translated by Ina Rilke, the writing is natural and intelligent. Being Dutch, means that the author's ancestors had a troubled and contentious connection with the Spanish Empire. You wouldn't know ...more
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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 l ...more

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