I had a large hole in my racket, Amélie Nothomb, a very prolific French language writer from Belgium. “People either love her or hate her” I was told, I am here to confess that after reading “Robert des Noms Propres” I neither hate her nor love her, this was simply an unusual story, well worth reading. This is the romanticised story of the Belgian singer RoBert, Amélie Nothomb manages to tell the story with the child at the center as she grows from a foetus to a singer
Plectrude’s life story begins with her 19 year old pregnant mother blowing a hole in her father’s head to “protect” her soon to be born child, she then gives birth to Plectrude in prison before committing suicide.
We are happy for Plectrude as her Aunt takes her in and raises her as her own beloved child, she grows in these circumstances into an exceptional young dancer at the Paris Ballet school where she succumbs to anorexia as a young adolescent, to the point of damaging her own bone structure and thus losing her dream. This is one episode in an eventful life and my description does not do justice to Nothomb’s detailed story as she leads us and Plectrude through adolescence to the key dramatic point of her life and it’s resolution.
We are placed in the position as observers of people’s stupidity, as we watch, powerless, the events unfold. The fairy tale life that the young girl lives (being allowed to eat whatever she wants dressing as a fairy and drifting through early life) is then reactivated as she finally leaves adolescence for a happy ending.
First published in French as Robert des Noms Propres by Albin Michel in 2002
Translated into English by Shaun Whiteside and published by Faber in 2005
2 thoughts on “Amélie Nothomb ‘The Book of Proper Names’”
I’ve only read Fear and Trembling but would like to read more by Nothomb – her work is certainly unusual.
Well you certainly have a choice, she is well known for her cult following and business sense, a book a year, she never misses, since “Fear and Trembling” in 1999, and always released in August.
Thanks for the visit