Fear and Trembling

      Amélie Nothomb
Fear and Trembling

According to ancient Japanese protocol, foreigners deigning to approach the emperor did so only with fear and trembling. Terror and self-abasement conveyed respect. Amélie, our well-intentioned and eager young Western heroine, goes to Japan to spend a year working at the Yumimoto Corporation. Returning to the land where she was born is the fulfillment of a dream for Amélie; working there turns into comic nightmare.

Alternately disturbing and hilarious, unbelievable and shatteringly convincing, Fear and Trembling will keep readers clutching tight to the pages of this taut little novel, caught up in the throes of fear, trembling, and, ultimately, delight.


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    The Book of Proper Names: A Novel

      Amélie Nothomb
The Book of Proper Names: A Novel

The Book of Proper Names is set in contemporary Paris, its main character an orphan named Plectrude. Before the child's birth her nineteen-year-old mother shoots and kills her nineteen-year-old (and somewhat feckless) father because she hates the names he's devised for their child--she fears they will doom their unborn child to mediocrity. The mother confesses openly to what she has done, and why. She is arrested and thrown into prison, where she gives birth to the child, names her, to everyone's bafflement, Plectrude--an obscure saint, and an albatross of a name--and then hangs herself.

The novel therefore begins on the borderline between tragedy and absurdity, but as Plectrude grows--raised by a loving, indulgent, and eccentric aunt--it becomes a deeply moving and simultaneously chilling portrait of girlhood. Plectrude's great gift turns out to be for ballet, and she throws herself into dance as if her life depended upon it. Few novels have shown us the implacable and unforgiving world of ballet with more intuitive sympathy, yet also with a keen-eyed assessment of the true price of artistic perfection.. Inevitably, the doom hovering over Plectrude's life from birth returns to haunt her, and in the end she learns to survive in the only way she knows how--by committing an act of deadly self-preservation her mother would have perhaps understood best.

The Book of Proper Names is vintage Amelie Nothomb--alternatively mordant and poignant, a portrait of adolescence that is fierce and funny at the same time. There is nothing mediocre either about Nothomb nor her creations.


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    The Character of Rain

      Amélie Nothomb
The Character of Rain

The Japanese believe that until the age of three children, whether Japanese or not, are gods, each one an okosama, or "lord child." On their third birthday they fall from grace and join the rest of the human race. In Amélie Nothomb's new novel The Character of Rain, we learn that divinity is a difficult thing from which to recover.


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    Hygiene and the Assassin

      Amélie Nothomb
Hygiene and the Assassin

Written nearly two decades ago, this is the first novel of the award-winning Nothomb to be translated into English (beautifully so, by Alison Anderson). The shocking, morbid tale follows Prétextat Tach, a brilliant Nobel Prize–winning author who's also an obese, embittered, reclusive, racist, and sexist old man dying of a rare form of cancer. When the world learns Tach has only months left to live, journalists scramble for an interview. Five are selected, and the first four leave their interviews humiliated by the offensive author. But then the fifth journalist arrives. Unlike the others, Nina has not only read Tach's work but also investigated his life, discovering appalling secrets the author had thought were buried forever. As Nina slowly peels Tach's life apart in front of him, his hatred for her turns to respect. Nina's arrival obliterates the book's languid pacing, bringing much more than a strong-willed persona to the proceedings. Her startling revelations lead to a dramatic and unexpected ending that illuminates why the world, if not always its English-speaking inhabitants, loves Nothomb.


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    Life Form

      Amélie Nothomb
Life Form

One morning, Nothomb receives a letter from one of her readers, an American soldier called Melvin Mapple, who is fighting in Iraq. Horrified by the endless violence around him, he takes comfort in over-eating. Over-eating until his fat starts to suffocate him and he can barely fit into his XXXXL clothes. Disgusted with himself, but unable to control his eating, he takes his mind off his ever-growing bulk by naming it Scheherazade and pretending that he is not alone at night with his flesh.

Although initially repulsed, Nothomb is fascinated and begins exchanging letters in earnest with Mapple.


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    Pétronille

      Amélie Nothomb
Pétronille

Employing wry humor and a deceptively simple style, Amélie Nothomb, the author of over twenty-three bestselling novels (over exactly twenty-three years!) writes about twin abiding passions: one for champagne, and the other for a riotous friendship between her protagonist and Pétronille Fanto, a woman who refuses to drink alone. This is a funny, moving, “exotic” novel about travel, France, Champagne, and, above all, about women’s friendship. The on-again/off-again friendship between Petronille and the main character in the book, a writer by the name of Amélie Nothomb, gives the story it verve and the novel its heart. This is literary Thelma & Louise, with a little bit of French panache and a whole lot of champagne thrown into the mix. Amélie Nothomb is one of Europe’s most successful and talked about authors. Hygiene and the Assassin, her first published novel, was published when she was only twenty-five and since then she has become a cult figure, occupying a unique position in the world of French and European fiction. Delightful and witty, Pétronille is further proof of Nothomb’s versatility and brilliance.


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