Amélie Nothomb: Authorship, Identity and Narrative Practice (Belgian Francophone Library)
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Since the publication of her first novel in 1992, Amélie Nothomb continues to engage and to provoke her readers through her exploration of the fluid boundaries between beauty and monstrosity, good and evil, fable and reality, as well as by her fascinating presentation of childhood, anorexia, and the abject. In Amélie Nothomb: Authorship, Identity and Narrative Practice, the first full-length study in English of Nothomb’s work, these elements are presented and interpreted from a variety of perspectives, with the contributors focusing on a single novel or comparing different texts. Comprised of a collection of essays on her autobiographical and fictional works, with contributions from her anglophone translators, it also includes an interview with the author, a preface by the eminent writer and critic, Jacques de Decker and a bibliography of secondary works. Nothomb’s works and the critical responses to them are contextualized in a general introduction and organized under the following key themes: autobiography and gender identity, representations of the body, and narrative practice. This collection is an essential resource for students and scholars of twentieth-century contemporary literature and gender studies.
experience of puberty, and her transformation into womanhood, was a revelation to her of her limitations: ‘J’ai vécu la puberté comme un drame à de multiples niveaux, entre autres comme une limitation dans le regard d’autrui; c’était passer d’une identité totale (au sens du “spectacle total”) à une identité limitée dans laquelle je ne me suis jamais reconnue’.2 Nothomb’s ﬁrst novel, Hygiène de l’assassin, sets the groundwork for the exploration of what she calls the feminine condition, and the
celebrate femininity? En quoi évoquait-elle davantage mon frère que moi? Et en quoi la masculinité étaitelle si formidable qu’on lui consacrait un drapeau et un mois (. . .) Alors qu’à la fémininité, on ne dédiait pas même un fanion, pas même un jour!14 Amélie decides to study carps in order to unveil this mystery. Her parents interpret her curiosity as a ‘passion ichytyologique’ (MT 98) and later present her with a birthday gift of three fat, ever-hungry carps. However, Amélie’s attraction for
104), ﬁling cabinets and the mail delivery trolley ‘énormes’ (ST 26, 65). Nothing is on a human scale, not even the Vice-President M. Omochi who is referred to as ‘la montagne de chair’ (ST 48) and ‘l’obèse’ (ST 108). On this grandiose scale of oversized ofﬁce equipment and heavyweight management, the normal individual employee shrinks into insigniﬁcance. ‘Les employés de Yumimoto’, we learn, ‘comme les zéros, ne prenaient leur valeur que derrière les autres chiffres. Tous, sauf moi, qui
mansion with creaking staircases, large, dark rooms, with few windows, and even clocks striking one at critical moments (ME 13, 15, 137). On this island, a hero-villain, a maiden, and the presence of secrets, criteria noted by Susan Bainbrigge & Den Toonder: Amélie Nothomb 116 page 116 susan bainbrigge Wolstenholme as prerequisites for the Gothic tale, are spiked by Nothomb’s deﬂating humour.5 In addition to these Gothic features, the references to ‘malaises psychosomatiques’, to the
overwhelming force.1 As God of duality, Dionysus embodies a tragic and fascinating power. This essay explores the inscription of Dionysus’s presence within Amélie Nothomb’s work, and considers the importance of a ‘Dionysian’ force in the author’s writing process. I shall present and compare several examples of Dionysian characters in Nothomb’s works in order to demonstrate the ambivalence and necessity of their sublime feelings and their monstrosity. I shall further argue that the author combines