A Poem from the Time of the Virus

With drawings by Max Neumann
Translated by David Colmer
₹499.00 $25 £18.99
One of the leading living European writers, Cees Nooteboom never shies away from contemporary issues. His latest collection of poems, Leaving, begins in a garden with descriptions of Mediterranean plants, but what emerges are memories of the war—images of a distant past that have never disappeared. The poems take another turn when, unexpectedly, a mysterious virus takes control of the world and turns life upside down.
A collection that can be read as a single poem, in which desolation and beauty, past and future, nostalgia and mortality all merge to represent the most mature work of a great poet. German artist Max Neumann’s haunting images that accompany the poems work as complex visual metaphors that further underline the beauty and the gravity of the poems. Together, they make for a delicate and thoughtful read.

Leaving is a poetry collection that puts many other “responses to the pandemic” to shame. Presaged by the nearly invisible threats to pines and palm trees described in 533 Days, Leaving returns to Menorca’s man in the winter garden” now portentously clouded by Covid. While both books stem from intense awareness born of enforced isolation, a literal withdrawing” to the island of the self, in Leaving the political animal (in the largest sense of that phrase) and solitary human are joined in poetry’s thought-movements and prosodic ambulations. [ . . . ] [T]he poems in Leaving perform themselves as themes and variations of a great artist’s “late style.” In both of these recent books, “the end of the end” is a recurring topic; so is aging, with the long-lived tortoise as exemplum.—Mary Maxwell, On the Seawall. Read the full review here.

‘As Nooteboom approaches 90, his poems feel immediate and urgent, yet also unhooked from time [ . . . ] the loneliness embodied by his faceless faces seem just as well to grieve an era of Internet-induced isolation as it does the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1945 [ . . . ] Sometimes the horror can be almost too much to bear, but Nooteboom is there to interrogate our dissatisfaction: “You wanted to live, didn’t you? / Did you only want gold, the blue / of the sky, love, the sun?” —Jake Goldwasser, Cleveland Review of Books. Read the full review here.

Praise of the original Dutch edition:

Relying in this book more on his keen-edged etching needle than the enshrouding darkness, Nooteboom has carved us a subtle portrait of his spiritual poethood.Meander

Although the author does not shy away from big questions: “How many lives are there in a life?”, the answers are melancholic musings, with minimal variations, but no less accurate. Just like thinking, poetry is a joy. And the coronavirus? That slumbers between the lines and remains out of the picture, just like the “army of helpers”.’—Medisch Contact

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ISBN: 9780857428837
Pages: 80
Publication Year: November 2021
Rights: UCP
Format: Hardback
Size: 6.25" x 9"
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