Doubling Up on Amelie Nothomb

Tokyo Fiancee (Europa Editions, 09) / Fear and Trembling (Griffin, 02)
I’m always drawn to unique female voices but lately I’ve been hoping for one with a little more levity. This is likely because it’s February and depressing as hell in Canada.
I enjoy Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Smart, probably Anais Nin if I ever bothered to read anything aside from her erotica. Simone De Beauvoir. But, where’s the humour?
Amelie Nothomb, a Belgian writer born in Japan, protests in Tokyo Fiancee - why must love always become so serious? This is indicative of her general reaction to the disappointments and various fuckeries that life can present – find the beauty, take it for what it is, ignore the rest of the BS that comes with it.
Yet her humour is never crude, it's always light, clean and collected, a refreshing mix. She swallows what life has to offer with utter abandon, offering up delicacies of mood that remind of the pleasures that life can hold.
I've doubled up on these two because they're both, at least mostly, autobiographical accounts of Amelie's attempt to move back to her beloved homeland when in her early 20's. Tokyo Fiancee is an account of her affair with Japan and a Japanese man. Fear and Trembling portrays her attempt (and failure) to work for a Japanese corporation.
The two books are like amuse-bouches – small with odd notes to stimulate the mind.
Take the way Amelie presses herself to the bay window of her office (on the top floor of a Tokyo skyscraper) in Fear and Trembling and imagines herself falling to the city below, thus releasing the restrictions and tensions of a highly regimented working environment.
Or of the beautiful scene in Tokyo Fiancee where she becomes lost in a snowstorm trying to ascent the 2000 metre-high Kumotori Yama mountain. Kudos for this phrase: "Salvation strikes my guts, I pull my pants down, empty my bowels."
Yes, this woman won the French Academy's 1999 Grand Prix for the Novel.
I recommend these two books, read together, as a way to cleanse the palate on a rotten day when delving into the annoying intricacies of an over-blown novel is too much to bear.

(Sorry, it's in French but worth it for the hat..!)

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