Amélie Nothomb and the autobiographical nature of her novels


The fourth novel that I read for my Extreme Contemporary French Literature class this past fall term was by a Belgian author, Amélie Nothomb, Robert des noms propres.

This novel was quite short and read like a children’s novel, almost.  That was one of the intriguing aspects about it – it’s in a way the type of book that you could read straight through as a child and enjoy the story, yet it is a complex story mixing many a fairy tale that never quite go right. After I had read it through, we discussed it in class and something I found intriguing that my professor mentioned to us was that it wasn’t simply an interesting story, but the romanticized life story of a friend of Amélie’s, a French singer Robert.

This course made us question the distinction between fact and fiction. When we write down our memories, is that fact or fiction? In a way, it is fiction because we expose these memories in a way that we choose. Think about it. If you have ever kept a journal, a blog, or recounted a story to a friend, have you re-told the events exactly as they unfolded? Did you play with the truth even just a tiny bit or did you leave out the parts that you didn’t think that friend would care about? How we recall these memories is affected by our surroundings.

These are the thoughts that have been running through my head as I’ve been reading another one of Nothomb’s books, Ni d’Ève ni d’Adam, which I surprisingly managed to find at my local library. (The surprising part was that I managed to find the French version of it and not just an English translation.) This novel is totally different than her previous one that I read. Not only is it quite a bit longer, but it is of an autobiographical nature, rather than a biographical nature. It really does read like a personal journal and feel like she is showing her readers the pieces of her life that she selected for show, which gives it a strong factual element. But at the same time, I am left wondering where the distinction between fact and fiction lies – to what extent are the events in the story real events that happened in her life or made up for the purpose of the story? I think that the personal journal aspect of the story has made it a bit dry, but I will finish it off – I’m only about 30 pages away from that – and then I will move on to the next book in my prioritized queue.

I’ve prioritized my queue of books to read from the library by alternating them French/English and ensuring that I first read the ones that have to be returned to the library first. For example, books that have requests placed on them cannot be renewed and high-demand books are due back after 2 weeks, not 3 weeks like the rest.


No Responses Yet to “Amélie Nothomb and the autobiographical nature of her novels”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: