The 3 best books of Amélie Nothomb

With a somewhat eccentric appearance, around which she has built a powerful image of the creative and resourceful writer that she certainly is, Amélie Nothomb he is dedicated to literature with great diversifying power in the subject matter.

A variety of resources immersed in a formal aesthetic that can pass for the naive, the allegorical and even the Gothic. This Belgian writer approaches any book with her natural fondness for surprise and disengagement from work to work.

So approaching Nothomb in one of his novels is never going to be a final impression on the rest of his creation. And if what is truly relevant, as I have already defended on occasion, is variety as a creative foundation, with Amélie you are going to take more than two cups of bewilderment in an eclectic taste for telling the appropriate story.

We must not forget that Nothomb shares the vitola of a writer daughter of diplomats (Isabel Allende, Carmen Posadas placeholder image, Isabel San Sebastian and others). A sum of curious examples of writers cradled by their traveling destiny who would find in literature a kind of refuge, an existential continuity in those comings and goings around the world.

In Nothomb's case, traveling continued to be part of her essence once she was an adult. And in that coming and going he has developed a dizzying literary career at the age of 50.

Top 3 best books of Amélie Nothomb

Stupor and tremors

Reviewing one's life to write that book of what we were can have a lot of idealization or comedy, depending on how it catches you. The Nothomb thing has a lot of the second. Because placing your own life in scenarios that are completely out of line with your reality can only lead to a strange, disconcerting, comical, and critical story. A vision that was made in this novel, a reference among the most true and necessary feminism, resilient because of the overcoming that the matter of not despairing at first has, and epic because of what any attempt to overcome in the face of denial already has departure.

This novel with a declared autobiographical charge, an impressive success in France since its release, tells the story of a 22-year-old Belgian girl, Amélie, who starts working in Tokyo at one of the world's largest companies, Yumimoto, the quintessential Japanese company. .

With amazement and trembling: this is how the Emperor of the Rising Sun demanded that his subjects appear before him. In today's highly hierarchical Japan (in which each superior is, first of all, the inferior of another), Amélie, afflicted by the double handicap of being both a woman and a Westerner, lost in a swarm of bureaucrats and subjugated, In addition, due to the very Japanese beauty of his direct superior, with whom he has frankly perverse relations, he suffers a cascade of humiliations.

Absurd jobs, insane orders, repetitive tasks, grotesque humiliations, thankless, inept or delusional missions, sadistic bosses: young Amélie starts out in accounting, then goes on to serve coffee, to the photocopier and, descending the steps of dignity (albeit with a very zen detachment), ends up taking care of the toilets… masculine.

Stupor and tremors

Beat your heart

The old, strange but notorious natural compensation to every gift. No one is beautiful without tragedy or rich without miseries of another kind. In the paradox of existing in fullness, on impossible and sustained wave crests, the suffocating depths of everything end up being discovered, like the pressure of an entire ocean on being.

Marie, a young beauty from the provinces, arouses admiration, knows she is wanted, enjoys being the center of attention and lets herself be wooed by the most handsome man in her environment. But an unforeseen pregnancy and a hasty wedding cut short her youthful ramblings, and when her daughter Diane is born she pours on her all her coldness, envy and jealousy.

Diane will grow up marked by a lack of maternal affection and trying to understand the reasons for her mother's cruel attitude towards her. Years later, the fascination for Alfred de Musset's verse that gives rise to the book's title prompted her to study cardiology at university, where she met a professor named Olivia. With her, in which he will believe to find the longed-for mother figure, he will establish an ambiguous and complex relationship, but Olivia also has a daughter, and the story will take an unexpected turn ...

This is a women's novel. A story about mothers and daughters. A deliciously acidic and malevolent contemporary fable about jealousy and envy, in which other complexities of human relationships also appear: rivalries, manipulations, the power we exercise over others, the need we feel to be loved ...

This novel, number twenty-five of Amélie Nothomb, is a perfect sample of her devilish intelligence as a narrator, the insight of her gaze and the pleasant lightness full of secret depth charges of her literature.

Beat your heart

High rise

Jesus Christ was thirsty and he was given vinegar. Perhaps then the most accurate thing would have been to declaim "I am the water of the world", and not the light... The life of Jesus, beyond the great book of the Bible, has been covered for us by a multitude of authors in literature and cinema, since JJ Benitez with his Trojan horses to the Monty Pythons in Brian's life. Bow or crash. Nothomb combines everything in a possession of Jesus himself who narrates, from his words, what was going on about his arrival and his resurrection.

A gripping, Nothombian reworking of the Sacred Story, reworked by one of the greatest writers of our time. The Testament according to Jesus Christ. Or the Testament according to Amélie Nothomb. The Belgian novelist dares to give voice to the protagonist and it is Jesus himself who narrates his Passion.

Appearing in these pages are Pontius Pilate, the disciples of Christ, the traitor Judas, Mary Magdalene, miracles, the crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus' conversations with his divine father... Characters and situations that are well known to all, but to whom here there is a twist: we are told with a modern look, a lyrical and philosophical tone with touches of humor.

Jesus speaks to us about the soul and eternal life, but also about the body and the here and now; of the transcendental, but also of the mundane. And he emerges as a visionary and thoughtful character who knows love, desire, faith, pain, disappointment and doubt. This novel reinterprets and humanizes a historical figure with a perhaps transgressive look, perhaps iconoclastic, but who does not seek provocation for provocation's sake or easy scandal at all.

A sacrilege, a blasphemy? Simply literature, and the good one, with the strength and capacity for seduction to which we are well accustomed Amélie Nothomb. If in some previous books the author played at reworking old fables and fairy tales with a contemporary touch, here she dares neither more nor less than Sacred History. And his very human Jesus Christ will not leave anyone indifferent.

Thirst, Amelie Nothomb

Other recommended books by Amèlie Nothomb

The aerostats

At the mercy of the wind but always waiting for the best current. The human will is even more fickle when it appears otherwise in its approach to maturity. The voyage has just set its first notes and one does not know if the horizon is a destination or an end without more. Letting yourself go is not the best, neither is surrendering. Finding someone who teaches you to discover is the best fortune.

Ange is nineteen years old, lives in Brussels and studies philology. To earn some money, she decides to start giving private literature classes to a sixteen-year-old teenager named Pie. According to his despotic father, the boy is dyslexic and has reading comprehension problems. However, the real problem seems to be that he hates books as much as his parents. What he is passionate about is mathematics and, above all, zeppelins.

Ange provides readings to her student, while the father clandestinely spies on the sessions. At first, the proposed books generate nothing but rejection in Pie. But little by little Red and Black, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Princess of Cleves, The Devil in the Body, The Metamorphosis, The Idiot... begin to have an effect and raise questions and concerns.

And little by little, the relationship between the young teacher and her youngest disciple strengthens until the bond between them is transformed.

First blood

The figure of the father has something of a confessor in the last instance. There is no sin that should not finally be released with a father at the fateful moment of goodbye. Nothomb writes in this novel his most intense elegy. And so the farewell ends up taking the form of a book so that anyone can get to know the father as the hero who can become, from the bottom up, more humane and fearful of him.

On the first page of this book we find a man facing a firing squad. We are in the Congo, in 1964. That man, kidnapped by the rebels along with fifteen hundred other Westerners, is the young Belgian consul in Stanleyville. His name is Patrick Nothomb and he is the future father of the writer. 

Starting from this extreme situation, Amélie Nothomb he rebuilds his father's life before that time. And he does it by giving him a voice. So it is Patrick himself who narrates his adventures in the first person. And so we will know about his father, a soldier who died in some maneuvers due to the explosion of a mine when he was very young; of his mother detached from him, who sent him to live with his grandparents; of the poet and tyrant grandfather, who lived outside the world; of the aristocratic family, decadent and ruined, who had a castle; of hunger and hardship during World War II. 

We will also know about his readings of Rimbaud; of the love letters that he wrote for a friend of hers and that her sister answered on behalf of her lover; of the two true writers of the letters, who ended up falling in love and getting married; of his apprehension of blood, which could cause her to faint if he saw a drop; of his diplomatic career… Until he got back to those terrible moments at the beginning, in which he looked away to avoid seeing the blood spilled from other hostages but had to look death in the eye.

In First Blood, his thirtieth novel, awarded the Renaudot Prize in 2021, Amélie Nothomb pays tribute to her father, who had just passed away when the author began writing this work. And so she reconstructs the origin, the history of her family before she was born. The result is a lively, intense, fast-paced book; dramatic at times, and very funny at other times. Like life itself.  

First blood

Sulfuric acid

One of those dystopian stories hovering about the present, about our lifestyle, about our customs and our cultural references. An avant-garde television network finds in its program called Concentración the reality that curls the curl in order to catch an audience that is mentally bloated, over-informed and incapable of surprise in the face of any stimulus.

Citizens chosen at random in their daily passing through the streets of Paris are composing a cast of characters from the most abominable show. Compared to real television news, in which we see after dinner how the world strives to destroy every vestige of humanity with our absolute complacency, the program Concentración addresses the idea of ​​bringing the sinister closer to viewers who have already naturalized violence and that they even delight in her and her morbidness.

The most moved consciences raise their voices in front of the program as we approach characters such as Pannonique or Zdena, with flashes of a strange love between ignominy and animosity that are victorious in the face of any other way of understanding the human.

Sulfuric acid

The crime of Count Neville

The focus of this novel by Amélie Nothomb, its cover, its synopsis, reminded me of the setting of the first Hitchcock. That esoteric touch that slipped through the cosmopolitan life of cities in the early twentieth century.

And the truth is that there was nothing wrong with my interpretation at first sight. Count Neville, burdened by his declining financial situation, but firm in his will to maintain the appearances of opulence and aristocratic splendor, finds himself in a more serious problem when his youngest daughter disappears.

Only the lucky encounter of the teenager with a psychic saved the young woman from a death by hypothermia in the middle of the forest. The scene already anticipates something mysterious, since the young woman has appeared curled up, as if alienated, upset by something that we do not know at the moment ...

Mister Henri Neville prepares to pick up his daughter, but the seer previously offers him a free premonition that turns him into a future murderer during a party that he will celebrate at his house.

The first idea is to associate this future murder with someone who has disturbed, violated the count's daughter, and the reader may be right, the point is that in this simple way, with a setting not without fantasy, you are caught up in what is to happen.

A point of mystery, certain drops of terror and the good work of a pen that shows character profiles and possible motivations for evil in the dim light, adorning the scenes to the precise point where the description is a taste and not a load, something essential for a novel designed to maintain intrigue.

When the day of the Garden party arrives, a common commemoration in the castle of the Neville, the reading is launched on a frantic journey, wishing to reach that moment in which the prediction may or may not be fulfilled, needing to know the reasons for the possible homicide, while the set of characters wander mysteriously through the plot, with a kind of sinister upper-class elegance.

The crime of Count Neville

Riquete the one with the pompadour

In her already prolific work, Amélie has navigated a multitude of currents to which she ends up adding shades between the fantastic and the existential, with that paradoxical lightness that this mixture of tendencies supposedly so far from the creative scale always achieves.

In Riquete el del pompano we meet Déodat and Trémière, two young souls called to sublimate themselves in their mix, like Beauty and the Beast of Perrault (A story better known in Spain than the title to which this adaptation refers).

Because it is a bit of that, to transfer the story to the present, to transform the fable towards its fit in our present time much more sordid than the melancholic and magical memory of the classic stories.

Déodat is the Beast and Trémière is the Beauty. He, who was already born with his ugliness and she, sanctified with the most fascinating of beauties. And yet both apart, far apart, marked by souls unable to fit into a material world from which they stand out at both ends ...

And from these two characters the author addresses the always interesting theme of normality and rarity, of the great eccentricity on the edge of the abyss and the mediocre normality that appeases the spirit while ignoring the soul itself.

The moment in which the reality of the world bursts forth with force, with its tendency to easy labeling, to image and to repudiation or aesthetic adoration, is already childhood and even more so adolescence. Through Déodat and Trémière we will live that impossible transition, that magic of those who know they are different and who, deep down, can approach from the risk of attracted extremes, the happiness of the most authentic.

Ricote the one with the Copete

5/5 - (12 votes)

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