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MONDAY

The midday pallor of Berlin in winter has never been captured so well as in Cees Nooteboom’s new novel, All Souls Day. The Dutch writer sees Berlin as a “city steeped in history,” where the ghosts of Kant, Rosa Luxemburg, Hitler, and even the Berlin Wall are never far away. Arthur Daane is a Dutch documentary filmmaker whose wife and child died years before in a plane crash. Now Daane wanders Berlin’s snowy streets from the Fasanenstrasse to Charlottenburg Palace, haunted by all that is lost in the inexorable flow of time. Standing at the Brandenburg Gate, he imagines German soldiers goose-stepping “from here to the trenches, as if they were in a hurry to die. And to think that they had walked here and thought things that will be lost to us forever.” He also indulges a private obsession—the filming of dawns and dusks, when “the gray took on the color of the film itself, that mysterious celluloid gleam.” Though most of the novel takes place in Daane’s head, he does occasionally stop to drink and eat stuffed pig’s stomach with his friends. Unfortunately, their long discussions—such as the one where they devise intellectual categories for sausage—can be annoying, and the novel works best when we’re wandering Berlin with Daane. It sounds too pretentious for words, but indeed it works, probably because in Daane, Nooteboom has created a real artist struggling to “achieve a nameless victory over the ephemeral” by saving “things that didn’t need to be saved because they were always there.” Nooteboom takes a gander at our town at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. Free. (202) 347-5495. (Michael Little)