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The creamy, sweet aubergine augmented the charred taste while miso controlled the richness. T he notably greaseless and still moist greens — asparagus, broccoli, baby leek, crosnes, enoki — were all fried very ably, however for me, they really were rather extraneous: the solitary and simple plate of beef and aubergine by itself was sufficient to suffice as the climatic main course.

Before the actual afters, a pleasant space dust-studded white chocolate lollipop, containing spicy lemongrass and citrus-sweet pomelo ice cream, was served. Rhubarb compote tart, strewn over with streusel; blood orange croustillant brimming with mascarpone cream and rounded off with sugared ginger baton; and a rhubarb crisp ladling ginger ice cream comprised the first dessert. Mild mascarpone cream and foam were nicely teamed with sweet, brittle tuile , but also awfully by a capsule of ginger that emitted harsh, alcoholic syrup that was far too overpowering.

The best of the bunch was the toothsome, piquant ice cream and crackly, sharp rhubarb. The ice cream of sfusato Amalfitan — queen of lemons — was deeply flavoured whilst the marinated orange, fleshy and juicy. Airy grapefruit mousse came with sugary mint and plump citric segments. A mound of crushed dark chocolate and coffee, littered with little bricks of passion fruit jelly, was encased in a large glass sphere.

It was the most modern presentation of a dish yet and resembled some sort of intergalactic-take on a biosphere. The earth of Valrhona Guanaja was quite bitter and lingered on the palate. Maracuja had kick and played on the faint fruity note in the chocolate whilst coffee added smokiness. P etit Fours: Rose and orange marshmallow; milk chocolate almonds; lemon tartlet; cherry marzipan; Peach Melba; almond and apricot jelly; blueberry cake.

Another salver served had chocolate-covered almonds with their skins interesting left on as well as one cup of rose and another of orange marshmallow tubes that were both very good. M ignardises : Valrhona chocolate truffles — Salted butter caramel; Baileys and white chocolate; rose milk chocolate; dark chocolate; white chocolate with passion fruit and coconut; thirty-year old balsamic; olive oil; coffee; saffron and verbena.

A final sweet token came in the form of Valrhona chocolate truffles. Dark choc, saffron and verbena were particularly memorable. S ervice was professional yet very personable. The atmosphere in the room was terrific. The serveuses and the surroundings all came together to create a very certain sense of festivity and event, which is precisely what I believe and expect dining at this level ought to feel like. The ensuing two plates were both good, but it was the coquille Saint-Jacques that next stood out.

This was a cleverly thought-out recipe executed very well. Blauer hummer was simply delicious: some of my favourite and quality ingredients cooked consummately and balanced brilliantly. Petit fours and mignardises were also of high standard. T he timing of this visit was not without import. As it so happened, it was around this time that my true tastes vividly revealed themselves, clearer and more concentrated than before. Although gastronomically curious and open-minded, I must confess that my own predilections lie less towards the classics and closer to the styles currently realised best by the New Naturals.

Bau is clearly rooted in the former category yet despite that — but maybe more impressive because of it — I still thought this an excellent meal and left inspirited. W hat appealed to me most today was the intimate character of the cooking. This came through in the cuisine: intricately constructed courses that were technically faultless whilst vibrant, sometimes unexpected and even joyful.

You sensed that the chef was enjoying himself in the kitchen and was proud and eager to share his cooking with you. Bau labels his own approach as a light and contemporary interpretation of French cuisine, stating that he wants to renew tradition and that he is from a new generation of chefs cooking for a new generation of customers. He spoke very fondly of his latest visit there at the start of this year and was obviously excited by what he had found.

Thus it was not unexpected then to see Oriental touches feature almost throughout our meal — what maybe was surprising was the seamlessness and seemingly effortless way in which these were integrated into dishes. A nother appreciated aspect of this lunch was its lightness. Courses were considerable in portion and number, but remained delicate and easy-to-digest.

Even given the multiple-plate methods and complex arrangements of this labour-intensive style that abhors shortcuts, there was a deceptive unfussiness in presentation and flavour combinations. Additionally, whilst sauces had relish, they were not decadently applied. On a more minor note, a further apparent trait of the chef was his keenness for combining the humble with the luxury; the eel-beef-caviar cornet possibly being the best example of this.

He allows and wants his to shine through and it does. The cooking is serious, but it is bright, caringly created and intermingled with subtle, individual nuances. Similar things can be said about the setting, which was elegant, but warmed with whimsy. There was a quaint charm here with an honest generosity that infused the entire experience.

T he already detailed air of celebration and occasion, expressed and emphasised most by Herr and Frau Bau themselves, really made the meal memorable. Furthermore, greeted, treated and then finally seen off by these two doting hosts, one is reminded of a small family restaurant. This in itself is equally winsome and endearing. The fact that Schloss Berg is not even on the San Pellegrino top best restaurants in the world list, and the likes of Nobu London is just goes to show what pointless award it really is to win IMO.

What a beautiful review. Thoughtful and elegant, your words seemed to have captured something of the meal itself. Great review FS. Bau is a true genius and I felt honoured eating two splendid meals at his restaurant. Agreed that savouries were better than desserts but I was truly impressed with every single plate of food put in front of me. Agree, he is very unassuming but genuinely a very nice gentleman.

Do let us know your thoughts should you make it there. Food Snob, I enjoy your reviews immensely but can you publish the price for say a meal for 2 people or a single person. It would be helpful so we can see what we are paying. Not everybody is Abramovich!! Look forward to your next review. Thank you, Hirta. If it is still not clear, feel free to send me an email and I will help where I can.

This is most excellent blog on gourmet cuisine I have found so far on the web. Thanx to Foodsnob I had the great pleasure to dine at Schloss Berg which I have never heard of before. The composition of the menu was just perfect and some of the tastes will stay in my memory for a long time.

Thanx for this blog again and keep up the great work! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Blog at WordPress. Dark choc, saffron and verbena were particularly memorable S ervice was professional yet very personable. Share this: Twitter Facebook Reddit. Like this: Like Loading I am very glad you enjoyed it. Another one to add to the list. Wonderful review. Please tell me there was wine! Laureline Amanieux identies one particular inuence on Nothomb: the image of Dionysus, and the pervasiveness of images of doubles and duality in her texts.

She presents and compares several examples of Dionysian characters in order to demonstrate the ambivalence and necessity of their sublime feelings and their monstrosity, and then goes on to argue that the author combines these dual feel- ings in the creative momentum of writing itself. Linguistic skill is matched by complex narrative strategies; in particular, endings are the focus of articles by Mark Lee and Marinella Termite.

Lee explores the writ- ing of childhoods end in Nothombs works, by drawing up an inventory of threshold scenes in different texts, and assessing the varied representations of them and their importance in the creation of the authors literary voice. Termite looks more generally at the ways in which the author concludes, especially her use of role reversal and alternative endings in texts which mirror the destructive titles assigned to them. Termite argues that Nothomb disrupts and subverts her narra- tives, defying in the process generic codes and conventions.

Andrew Wilson and Adriana Hunters translations mark an important turning point in making Nothombs works available to an English-speaking audience. To close the volume we are delighted to present the transcription of an interview conducted with the author in January in which we discuss with her a number of the questions raised at the conference in the presentations and discussions. Full references for Nothombs works are listed in the bibliography.

See Yolande Helm, Amlie Nothomb: lenfant terrible des lettres belges de langue franaise, tudes Francophones, 11 , p. De toute faon, je ne me sens bien nulle part. Cela sappelle tre apatride, jimagine. Et cependant, si je ne suis chez moi nulle part, je nen suis pas moins une apatride belge, in Une Apatride belge, Belgique toujours grande et belle, Revue de lUniversit de Bruxelles , ed.

See interview in this volume, and Yolande Helm, op. Scholarly articles on Nothombs writing are listed in the bibliography. Le royaume du conte nest autre chose que lunivers familial bien clos et bien dlimit o se joue le drame premier de lhomme. Sigmund Freud proposed fairly convincingly that memories are formed and constructed at the time of remembrance, to the extent that our memory is without memories. Cela na pas dimportance.

Sagissant dun nonc aussi invriable, je vois moins que jamais lintrt dtre crdible. Can the reader nd her auto- biographical texts satisfactory? The autobiographical vein is not the main thrust of Amlie Nothombs works to date, and judging from her latest novel, Cosmtique de lennemi,5 she has, mo- mentarily at least, stemmed the ow. Possibly because of her youth, the autobio- graphical impulse is also fairly sporadic, and does not appear to be a sustained, concerted attempt at writing an autobiography.

Dates of publication, which are not necessarily proof of time of writing with Amlie Nothomb, do not corre- spond to the chronology of life events. Mtaphysique des tubes, which came last, ac- tually goes back further in time than the rst, and the middle text Stupeur et trem- blements 6 deals with a more recent event than the other two see Appendix. Tu dois te souvenir!

Puisque tu ne vivras pas toujours au Japon, puisque tu seras chas- se du jardin [. Le souvenir a le m- me pouvoir que lcriture [. In this postmodern age, memories and writing are strangely uncomplicated words under Nothombs pen, to the point that it begs the question: what do these fragments contribute to her early promise and, perhaps more importantly for the reader, to the ever problematic genre of autobiography?

Ill take Nothombs latest autobiographical publication, Mtaphysique des tubes, the book of her genesis, as a canvas into which, when pertinent, threads from Le Sabotage amoureux and, to a lesser extent, Stupeur et tremblements can be woven. On this tapestry, three overlap- ping pictures of the protagonist emergeas a metaphysical being, a gendered being, and a national being. The striking beginning of Mtaphysique des tubesAu commencement il ny avait rienblends hyperbole and philosophy, the hallmark of all three works, and the ending: Ensuite il ne sest plus rien pass.

The metaphysical terminology has overtones of Nietzschean and Sartrian philosophizing, and the irony of a page text starting with the word nothing and nishing with rien will strike more than one reader, in addition to the fact that on a factual level, it is clearly not true.

The character continues to live; she even becomes a writer and a narrator who writes about other sequences of her ensuing life. The assertion [Ensuite il ne sest plus rien pass] is true if we accord a philosophical meaning to the word nothing: nothing of value, nothing of note. Such an airy nihilism is not new, and can be as- sociated with the clich that infancy is a lost paradise as in a fable.

Marguerite Your- cenar for instance, in her memoirswhere she studiously avoids talking about her- selfcites a letter written as a child to her aunt following the death of her dog: Cest en somme ma premire composition littraire; jaurais pu aussi bien men te- nir l.

Richard N. Coes seminal work, When the Grass was Taller, detects a decidedly mystical tendency in many of the six hundred of what he terms Childhoods with a capital C, all texts dealing with the early years of life. For instance, in the rst volume of his autobiography, Michel Leiris sets about narrating la mtaphysi- que de lenfance9 which, incidentally, might have provided Nothomb with her title. Many writers in Coes corpusto which we can now add Nothombbe- lieve in a communal subconscious, listing numerous cases of early irrational intui- tions such as intimations of immortality.

Nothombs views of childhood and iden- tity are then relatively commonplace in tales of childhood, yet they have rarely been pushed to their logical conclusions as in Mtaphysique des tubes and Le Sabo- tage amoureux. She discovered death before discovering life: Mort! Qui mieux que moi savait? Le sens de ce mot, je venais peine de le quitter [.

MT The theme of death within life pervades literature in general, and Nothombs texts in particular, with an unusual degree of elaboration and transmu- tation: death is, at the very least, not the scarecrow adults assume it to be. In fact the four-year old Amlie courts death a few times, and if she doesnt tell her mother that she tried to commit suicide in the sh pond MT its only to pro- tect her from the truth.

But if we are to believe Michel Picard, quand on parle de la mort, on parle toujours dautre chose,10 if we accept therefore that Death stands here as a mere decoy, Nothomb is speaking not of the death of her body, but that of a delusion.

She loses her self-image as an ego endowed with willpower, supreme condence, and acute consciousness. Lautre chose Nothomb deals with, is the loss of the childs natural sense of the divine. The author represents her former self as closer to unmediated truths via her nat- ural mysticism, than any other person, any other adult. As Coe writes, the child, through its inspired fantasies is still able to participate more immediately than the average adult in the common, total past of the human race.

In fact, baby Amlie is beyond any adult-made philosophy, in a nothingness outside any category imagined by man, be it time, movement, evolution, existence: tre ou ne pas tre, telle ntait pas sa question MT The baby, God or the Plant, is the essence of a cosmic nothing, le rien with only one force, its force dinertie MT The implication is that this baby in its claim to nihilism represents the purest condition imaginable, maybe a state all babies go through, if only for shorter periods of time than Amlie Nothomb, but which they forget about.

She is unique in the sense that not only did she not forget that stage, but she can put into language what is in essence a non-language stage. Si jeune et dj surdoue,12 a critic comments ironically. Her remarkable feat is to make us forget that she is not writing her memories, be they early ones, but recon- structing pre-verbal sensations. In fact, this and the idea that a baby might feel like a God, or a cosmic entity, is carried out in the most serious tone by a narrator who is a typically Nothombian, argumentative, seemingly logical thinker au fait with Cartesian reasoning.

An amusing metatextual comment can apply to this very text: the narrator mentions Slawomir Mrozek who is supposed to have written remarks on tubes that are either confondants de profondeur ou superbement dsopilants MT 9. Both qualications apply simultaneously to these texts whose serious tone is constantly undercut by irony. In her book of genesis, Mtaphysique des tubes, mock-serious ourish tinges the telling of each new phase of baby Amlies life.

Past her second birthday she grows out of the pure principle of Nirvana13 she embodied so far and for the next six months, she is mad with rage, a kind of wrath of God, which stems from her real- ization that she is not all-powerful, she is not in control of the world MT As with the sudden eruption of her divine anger, the causation of events is illogical. In a pastiche of a sacred text, the two-and-a half year old discovers a unique sense of identity.

As in a fairy-tale she is bestowed a faiththe primacy of her Selfwhen eating a piece of chocolate entering the oral stage or experiencing the holy communion? This veil au plaisir via the marvellously symbolic Belgian chocolate, this moment of adumbration, is followed by the narrators musing on the logical links between self, voluptuousness, and memory, as if her design was to rewrite infant psychol- ogy and western philosophy and religion in one fell swoop.

Facetious as it is, this sophistry nonetheless holds some truth, the unproven truths of the mystical child. There is a similar, although less central, scene, in Le Sabotage amoureux when the ve-year-old Amlie arrives in China, after having drunk a mug of strong tea: La thine est en train de provoquer des feux dartice dans mon crne. Sans en rien laisser paratre je suis folle dexcitation. Tout me semble grandiose, commencer par moi SA It is signicant that such exhilaration should arise from her com- ing into contact with China, a foreign culture for a Belgian child who had been living so far in Japan.

The underlying connection between the two scenes in Mta- physique des tubes and Le Sabotage amoureux is the protagonists exploration of a na- tional identity: what does it mean for Amlie Nothomb, born in Japan and bred in many foreign, far-eastern countries, to be Belgian. It comes as no surprise that No- thomb, daughter of a diplomat with a multitude of short-term postings, should be concerned with national identity. Her discovery of Europe at seventeen in- duced in her un malaise pathologique.

A case in point that is particularly telling for our study, is Jacques Lecarmes use of Belgian child- hood tales to support the following analysis: Serait-ce alors une caractristique culturelle que le dsir de raffermir une appartenance culturelle toujours problma- tique en remontant aux sources du euve? Pour moi, il ny avait pas des langues, mais une seule et grande langue dont on pouvait choisir les variantes japonaises ou franaises, au gr de sa fantaisie MT She accepts that East and West meet in her, a hybrid being.

This is embodied in her choice of the best rst words to utter, as obvious performative speech-acts: Javais dj donn leur nom quatre personnes [maman, papa, aspirateur sic et ma sur]; chaque fois, cela les rendait si heureuses que je ne doutais plus de lim- portance de la parole: elle prouvait aux individus quils taient l MT Pas- tiche never being very far away, the chapter about speaking is articulated around Saussures linguistic distinctions between langage and parole.

It is also obvious that Nothomb is inverting other philosophers theories of language: Barthes mais aussi Foucault, Derrida et Lacan[pensent que] le Moi nest rien dautre que le produit du langage, ltre nexiste que par lnonciation. Language is indeed at the heart of all existences. Language expression set in national hybridity is later dramatized in an episode where Amlie is drowning in the seaa very Japanese setting since la purica- tion, labsolution par leau, est une donne culturelle du Japon17 as well as an am- niotic-like liquidand the seventh French word uttered by little Amlie MT This secular baptism forces her to call au secours, thereby confessing que je par- lais la langue de mes parents MT Yet something did drown in the Sea of Japan: her muteness in French and her preference for the Japanese language which she talked freely with her Japanese nanny.

Reconciled now with her two national identities, she starts a series of many compromises with universal values. She has to separate the two varieties of the mother language she imagined existed beyond all distinctions. Ultimately she will have to nd a less provisional answer to her quest for identity: to be a hybrid leaves open the question of the respective dos- ages of the national inuences.

More importantly hybridity is an uncomfortable position to occupy as it threatens those people attached to unambiguous notions of nationhood. That is the reason why, in a reverse, ironical gesture of disappro- priation, the narrator of Stupeur et tremblements will have to give up her Japanese language skills while working as an interpreter for a Japanese company: Comment nos partenaires [dit Monsieur Saito] auraient-ils pu se sentir en conance, avec une Blanche qui comprenait leur langue?

A partir de maintenant, vous ne parlez plus japonais ST It is also revealing that the ending of Stupeur et tremblements would coincide with the birth of the writera French-speaking writer. Possibly because Stupeur et tremblements deals with Amlie as an adult, the question of na- tional identity is treated, somewhat disappointingly, by way of simplied stereo- types for instance, her comments on Japanese intolerance for Westerners ways ST , whereas, in Le Sabotage amoureux, with its child protagonist, that ques- tion still makes up a polysemic dramatic element of the plot.

Le Sabotage amoureux, like Mtaphysique des tubes, hails a heady celebration of childhood18 as the narrators and the protagonists minds seem again truly fused,19 and the distance between adult author and younger self almost abolished as a man- ifestation of Nothombs statement: Je suis une nostalgique jamais de mon enfan- ce.

The word romanticized might seem exaggerated since Amlie, together with the children of many nations living in Beijings diplomatic com- pound, are waging a war between themselves. Their war is presented, like Yves Roberts classic lm La guerre des boutons , as no less real in the minds of the children as an adult war, and certainly purer in its objectives, and rules. It is based on honour, and nobody gets killed, just humiliated. Et nous, nous faisions juste le contraire.

Ayez des enfants SA Violent historical events World War Two is also the backdrop to Mtaphysique des tubes, with Nishio-sans horric tales of her family being wiped out by accidents and by the bombing of Hiroshimaemphasize the notion that adulthood is a corrupt stage of human- kind, and how death and loss in fact underscore Amlies happy childhood. In effect, the divide between the world of adults and the world of children in Le Sabotage amoureux is as pronounced as in Mtaphysique des tubes, with adults always slightly silly, inadequate, and certainly never bearers of truths.

Compared with her godlike, all-knowing, haughty self, the adults surrounding Amlie her parents, her Belgian grandmother, Kashima-san, called the Antechrist MT 73 , Nishio- san, the doctors , are just like children, wide-eyed, incomprehending, over- whelmed by whatever situation they encounter. Autobiographies are basically romans familiaux: Marthe Robert went as far as making le roman familial the origin of all writings where le remplacement de ses parents par de plus intressants implique leur suppression.

It is as if a literary smokescreen shrouded the usual autobiographical exhibition of unresolved family dynamics. In Le Sabotage amoureux adults are no more than a hindrance to the childrens self-important manoeuvres; they must be surveills SA50 and contained. Grown-ups exemplify the absurdity of un-enlightened human beings who have warped views on true priorities.

The dichotomy between children and adults is no- where better exemplied in Le Sabotage amoureux than in the love story between six-year-old Amlie and an Italian girl, Elena, a story which thematizes the forma- tion of gender identity, the third focal point of these texts.

As bets the metaphysical child, that love is of the purest kind as in a Greek tragedythe parallels with Omers Iliad are made explicit SA with Elena a substitute for Helen of Troy. It is not the rst autobiographical text to contain a precocious love story, for instance, Romain Garys La Promesse de laube and his pre-pubescent protagonist infatuated with cruel Valentine,23 or Marcel Pagnol who, as an eleven-year-old, is subjugated by a poets tyrannical daughter. Les adultes disent parfois aux enfants: Vous ne pouvez pas savoir ce quest lamour.

Cest une chose que lon apprend quand on est grand. Cela veut dire que les adultes ont oubli un tas de choses, quils ne veulent pas vous parler ou quils font les idiots. Je me souviens trs bien qu lge de 7 ans, je suis tomb amoureux pour la premire fois. Elenas ultra-feminine behaviour challenges Amlies views that lhumanit tait divise en trois catgories: les femmes, les petites lles et les ridi- cules SA Amlie holds onto her conception regardless.

Beyond the sheer in- tensity of discovering love for the rst time and for someone who is incapable of reciprocating, the parallels with previous childhood tales stop here. In Le Sabotage amoureux unrequited love produces fantasies of cruelty and, following the advice of her mother, her only signicant input in her daughters life, Amlie calculatingly pretends indifference in order to win over Elena, all in vain. The protagonist learns many lessons about love and in particular that heroic actions such as peeing over the enemy.

With her usual hyper- bolic pen the narrator states at the very end of Le Sabotage amoureux: Merci Ele- na, parce quelle ma tout appris de lamour SA This nal tout is of the same ilk as the initial rien of Mtaphysique des tubes, it is all at once trivially and deeply true and false. The trivial tends to focus on an ducation sentimentale of sorts, and turns the attention away from the more intimate theme of Amlies gen- der identity formation, the real tout of her learning.

This is after all a love between two little girls. In pre-sexual loves the gender of the lovers is often irrelevant to the story, although this same-sex love can be ana- lysed as an attempt at seducing the bad mother. In Mtaphysique des tubes Amlies awareness of gender differences is framed by her avowed disgust for boys and men, les ridicules.

In Japan, the month of May is, unjustly in the protagonists mind, dedicated to boys, through the worshipping of carps, emblme du sexe moche MT Amlies sickened fascination for water and carps leads her parents to give her three carps for her third birthday, a real fall from the divine age, and the beginning of a period of anguish and gender confusion, as if her parents wanted to endow her with a phallic attribute.

It would be however simplistic to assume that carps, in the childs eyes, represent penises. In Stupeur et tremblements to a lesser extent, the same-sex sado-masochistic pat- tern played out between Elena and little Amlie is repeated between a twenty-year- old Amlie and Fubuki Mori.

In a way, then, she has learnt rien instead of tout. The narrator, however, shows a rare hint of compassion for Fubuki, the epitome of the Japanese woman whose only alternative is suicide or abject submission to macho values ST Nothombs commiseration for Japanese women tends to cancel out misogynistic pronouncements in her other works, as in Hygine de lassassin. Her proposition might be that this is what a search for identity is: never closed, never concluded.

In view of the three works themesthe protagonists metaphysical, national and gendered identities , and their common tonehyperbolic, ironic, provoca- tive with a sustained foregrounding of their ctional and literary naturewould the reader be right in signing the autobiographical pact? We have to bear in mind that readers dont tie down autobiographers any more to a dogmatic generic pact, expecting rather aesthetic pleasure from overlaps and playful infringements of strict genre rules, working out for themselves each texts own mode of reading.

Notwithstanding her unsophisticated views of childhood memories and her provocative, self-assured, reversal of the tenets of autobiography, Nothomb does not spoil the modern-day trend that blurs the boundaries between ction and au- tobiography. Nothomb belongs to a generation well aware of, and contributing to, changing horizons of expectations, and the new norms of compulsory aporia and contradictions regarding the various components that make up the writing of a life: self, truth, memories, etc.

Contemporary writers are inclined simultaneously to exaggerate and deprecate the autobiographical labelling, and obscure any pos- sible generic dichotomy between autobiography and novel, in particular with re- gards to truthtelling. The pendulum of truth oscillates between ction and faction since Andr Gides standofsh remark in a mere footnote to his own autobiogra- phy: Peut-tre mme approche-t-on de plus prs la vrit dans le roman [que dans les mmoires]31 which is echoed by David Maloufs words: Maybe, in the end, even the lies we tell dene us.

And better, some of them, than our most earnest at- tempts to tell the truth. Tout ceci doit tre considr comme dit par un personnage de roman,33 writes Roland Barthes in his own subversive autobiography; Serge Doubrovsky pursues and the- orizes his series of autoctions, or ctions of his own self: Si jessaie de me rem- morer, je minvente. Je suis dguise en mon contrai- re, en vieux bonhomme obse, trs clbre et mourant, pour dire tout ce que je pensais.

Nonetheless, we have found a method in her autobiographical style: the system- atic use of exaggeration, reversal, humour, and pieces of sophistry, suggesting that pastiche informs the three texts: pastiche of the book of genesis and educational treatises in Mtaphysique des tubes; pastiche of tragedy and war stories including a love war in Le Sabotage amoureux; and nally a tangled pastiche of a sado- masochistic roman dducation, polar psychologique38 and rapport de stage39 in Stupeur et tremblements.

Such a formula is also put to good use in her novels see for instance Pplum, the pastiche of a futuristic novel, or Mercure, a reworking of Beauty and the Beast. A question remains nonetheless with regards to the auto- biographical works: what is the point of Nothombs pastiches? There are obvious moral lessons propounded by the condent narrator, very much as in a conte. Nothombs views on childhood are reminiscent specically of the Emperors new clothes, where children expose adults aws.

In fairy tales it is quite acceptable to create a playful, magical atmosphere where archetypal adults good, bad, cruel, sa- viours etc. Nothomb in fact borrows from a specic type of conte, the conte philoso- phique. Take for instance Le Sabotage amoureuxs allusions to Candide, with Vol- tairian sentences such as Nous le hassions tous pour ces motifs excellents SA Contes philosophiques always volunteer moral lessons which in this case could be worded as follows: Urges such as violence and love are innate and atavistic.

Edu- cators should accept that Le Sabotage amoureux. Adults have to acknowledge and grieve for the lost spiritual, egotistical child in them Mtaphysique des tubes ; Sado-masochism is at the heart of the Japanese identity and possibly all love af- fairs Stupeur et tremblements. Not everybody might agree that such crude word- ing does justice to the complexity of those multilayered, polysemic tales, but it is undeniable that all three books promote the view that there is no such thing as civ- ilization: barbarism reigns supreme, in boys and girls, in childhood, in adulthood, in Japan, in China, in families, in love and war, in the past and the present.

Fairy-tale truths belong on a different plane to autobiographical truths, as they dont rely on accuracy or memory. They apply collectively to humankind, but do not disclose much about specic individuals. Now we can see the point of using the conventions of the conte. For the writer too, it serves a purpose: not to reveal publicly Amlie Nothombs personality of the esh-and- blood person, one of the classical expectations of the genre of autobiography, but to add to the disguise by dressing herself in fantasy clothing.

Yet since writing ones autobiography is a golden opportunity for self- knowledge what did the autobiographer achieve for herself? Does it full her de- voir de mmoire, her early promise to herself? If we take the issue of national identity, in the end it seems that Amlies search is diluted into nothingness by ironic generalizations: il est exact que nous sommes tous chinois.

A divers degrs, certes: chacun a son taux de Chine en soi, comme chacun a son taux de cholestrol dans le sang ou de narcissisme dans le regard SA The same goes for the other main themes: all babies are metaphysical beings, who later, as young children, turn into quasi-barbarians, and later again, as full-blown sadistic adults. Love is an exer- cise in sado-masochism. Nothombs satire of a Japanese company obscures, rather than enlightens, the stereotypical, supposedly insurmountable exotica of far- eastern cultures.

Yet, because of her ironic stance and exaggerations, Nothomb cant be pinned down to any theory of national, gendered or spiritual identity, and therefore doesnt risk alienating any reader, or being xed in lifeless, ossied self-portraits. However, it seems that she doesnt take the risk of self-revelation ei- ther. The narrators position at once inside and outside the autobiographical pact allows her to remain uncommitted to truthtelling, even to herself. She stays in that very nothingnessin the last words of Mtaphysique des tubes, entre deux eaux MT she facetiously praised.

From there she entertains us with her grief in coming to terms with her lost metaphysical self, lost national identity, and lost illu- sions concerning love. For a full discussion on memory, memories and reconstruction, see Julien Rouart, Souvenirs et fantasmes: de la remmoration aux constructions, Revue franaise de psy- chanalyse 2nd March , Mtaphysique des tubes Paris: Albin Michel, , p. Subsequent references in the text will appear as MT followed by the page number.

Cosmtique de lennemi Paris: Albin Michel, Subsequent references in the text will appear as CE followed by the page number. Stupeur et tremblements Paris: Albin Michel, Subsequent references in the text will appear as ST followed by the page number. Marguerite Yourcenar, Quoi? Lternit Paris: Gallimard, Biblos, , p. Thierry Gandillot, N, carpes et chocolat, LExpress, available online at www. For a psychoanalytical critique, see Anon.

Tombeur, op. It should also be noted that Prtextat Tach said he died aged seven- teen, Hygine de lassassin Paris: Albin Michel, , p. Jacques Lecarme, La lgitimation du genre, in Le rcit denfance en question, Cahiers de smiotique textuelle, 12, Universit Paris 10 , p. Mounir Laouyen, Lautoction: une rception problmatique, paper delivered at the Colloque Fabula, available online at Fabula.

Frdric Grolleau, La vie en tube, Paru. The blending of the two viewpoints, that of the adult narrator and the young protago- nist is not seen as a quality by Ook Chung: les deux registres narratifs ont tendance se tlescoper et confondre le lecteur, in Une enfance pique, Libert 34, 3, Juin , footnote 3, p.

Quoted from an interview with Evelyne Wilwerth, Amlie Nothomb: sous le signe du cinglant, La Revue gnrale, 67 , p. Marthe Robert, Roman des origines et origines du roman Paris: Grasset, , p. A critic suggested that the two nannies represent Mlanie Kleins concept of good and bad mothers, leaving the biological mother hors jeu, op. For a psychoanalytical analysis, see, Anon. See Picard, op. Hygine de lassassin Paris: Albin Michel, Annick Cojean, La rage des chiennes de garde , Le Monde, 12 fvrier , p.

Andr Gide, Si le grain ne meurt Paris: Gallimard, , p. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, Entretien au centre culturel de La Botanique, 3 avril , quoted in Hubert, op. As was suggested by an anonymous reader to Alapage. As the quote heading this article implies. Quel malheur que dtre femme!

Et pourtant le pire malheur quand on est femme est au fond de ne pas comprendre que cen est un. Putatively ction, Hygine de lassas- sin is highly suggestive of autobiography. Nothomb, who echoes Flaubert when she claims Tach, cest moi, speaks through this eighty-year-old man to express dissatisfaction with, or rather outright disgust of, the feminine condition. The an- swer? Il faut supprimer les femmes.

Women are trapped in an existence which lies somewhere between life and death, a non-life. Once a little girl reaches puberty, Tach explains, her life has ended, and she enters into this non-life. Tach, with his cousin Lopoldine, at- tempts to stave off the onset of puberty through a particularly stringent regime of self-starvation in Hygine de lassassin, in the belief that the answer to the femi- nine condition is to avoid adulthood and puberty, to remain pre-adolescents.

They are united in an unspoken pact, and wander the grounds of the Chateau of Saint-Sulpice, isolated as if in a Garden of Eden. Tach fails in his attempt to stay trapped in childhood, as Lopoldine does fatefully one day menstruate: she is strangled and her murder is re-narrated by her assassin-cousin as a drowning, a Hugo echo in her name, but more so a lost Ophelia, faithful to this literary icon. This adolescent Lopoldine-Ophelia of Nothombs rst novel is recuperated and saved in her third autobiographical novel of , Mtaphysique des tubes, in which young Amlie foresees being chased from her own Garden of Eden in Japan, and demonstrates that the awareness of gender difference and its social consequences comes at a much earlier age.

What does it mean to write as a woman? For Amlie Nothomb, it means to write, in part, about the feminine condition. This is consonant with the general scholarly conviction that gender, or the fact of femininity, is a shaping force in au- tobiographies written by women. Nancy K. Miller states in Writing Fictions: Womens Autobiography in France that the subject of womens autobiography is a self both occulted and overexposed by the fact of her femininity as a social reality.

Where bod- ily experience puberty, sexuality, or pregnancy is invoked, it is often in ambiva- lent or negative terms. Such ambivalence characterizes Amlie Nothombs works, where the body and the social construct of femininity are problematized. Feminist theory tends to divide into the camps of essentialism assigning inher- ent feminine traits to women and constructivism considering women as con- structed entities, in the manner of Simone de Beauvoir that one is not born a woman, but becomes one , although they are united in one respect: the problem of gender.

The works of Amlie Nothomb deconstruct the notion of the feminine by utilizing both essentialist and constructivist discourses. The author insists that she is a humanitarian, not a feminist, in an effort perhaps to avoid this dichotomy,6 and to deconstruct the social construct of gender. Nonetheless, as a woman writer, her focus is clearly on the formation of feminine identity.

Susan Stanford Fried- man claims that a [. He can think of himself as an individual. Women, reminded at every turn in the great cultural hall of mirrors of their sex [. Throughout Nothombs texts, the role of women in a patriarchal society is re-evaluated and questioned. In Stupeur et tremblements, the Japanese woman is trapped within her own body. Women are presented as victims in Hygine de lassassin, victimes particulirement pernicieuses puisquelles sont avant tout victimes delles-mmes, des autres femmes HA Childhood is presented as a problematic utopia, an escape from this victimiza- tion.

In Le Sabotage amoureux, Nothomb denes her child self as a little girl, a third sex, separate from the other two sexes male and female , and maintains a superior- ity of childhood for les petites lles, little girls. I use the term third sex, but No- thomb herself prefers a beyond sex, or au-del des sexes, presumably to decon- struct gender, rather than add a third element to an already complex binary.

Children, and more importantly for this thesis, little girls, are referred to with a neuter article, rather than a masculine or feminine article: das Kind and das Mdchen. Between the ages of two and a half and three years, young Amlie rst becomes aware of the consequences of gender difference and is revolted by, and revolts against, the fem- inine condition.

If her earliest childhood constituted a utopian space, au-del des sexes, the novel concludes with the sullen realization of normative feminine dif- ference. The so-called autobiographical account of Nothombs life from age zero to age three is in fact a metaphor for puberty and the trauma of the transformation of the body of a seemingly androgynous little girl. Mtaphysique des tubes presents a world where toddlers are demi-Gods and a baby girl is reassured of her place at the centre of the universe.

Young Amlie has the impression of controlling her universe and the people surrounding her: with a word, she can give life and meaning, simply by naming an object. Her divine power brings her the adoration of her Japanese nanny and assures her of her su- preme power.

The beginning of the novel suggests a complete identity, such as that found in the womb, before the division of self and the creation of ego,12 or for Nothomb, the onset of puberty. It is a Biblical wholeness, Oneness, possessed by God, ruler of the Christian world.

The infant Amlie imagines herself to be a God, creating a ctive image of identit totale. Yet, in this Garden of Eden which is childhood, even a divine ruler must fall. The rst taste of evil comes in the form of a ag, brandished in honour of the month of boys. It is the month of May; Amlie is two months away from her third birthday. A scandal interrupts this earthly paradise when she discovers the rst signs of gender difference, hoisted on a agpole.

The face of gender inequality is a sh. Her family lives in Osaka, Japan, and they follow Japanese tradition by raising a ag with a carp to honour each boy in the household during the month of May. She asks when the month of girls is celebrated, and is told that this does not exist. Piscina Although she had already noticed that there is a difference between genders her mother and father, her brother and sister all provided examples , she realizes for the rst time the injustice of this difference.

Suddenly, the opposition between woman and man appears more important than all others such as height, nationality, etc. She is puzzled about the superior place of maleswhy is there a ag and a month dedicated to masculinity, while not even a day is set aside to celebrate femininity? En quoi voquait-elle davantage mon frre que moi? Et en quoi la masculinit tait- elle si formidable quon lui consacrait un drapeau et un mois.

Alors qu la fmi- ninit, on ne ddiait pas mme un fanion, pas mme un jour! Amlie decides to study carps in order to unveil this mystery. Her parents inter- pret her curiosity as a passion ichytyologique MT 98 and later present her with a birthday gift of three fat, ever-hungry carps. However, Amlies attraction for the carps is motivated by disgust.

Initially, this disgust appears to be of the male body:. Ctait peut-tre a, le point commun lorigine de cette symbolique: avoir quelque chose de vilain. Les lles neussent pas pu tre reprsentes par un animal rpugnant [. Les Japonais avaient eu raison de choisir cette bte pour emblme du sexe mo- che MT An emblem of the ugly sex, a repugnant animal, the carp represents the differ- ence between little boys and girls, that which little girls lack. In describing her dis- gust of the carps, young Amlie contrasts the outward physical realities of the male and female body, as seen through the eyes of a child:.

Les tuyaux ouverts avalent. Lorsquils ont dgluti, ils en rclament de plus belle. Leur gorge est si bante quen se penchant un peu on y verrait jusqu leur estomac [. Que se passerait-il si les gens ex- hibaient leurs entrailles? MT , my emphasis. Female sex organs are neatly tucked away, hidden inside, while the male sex organs are external, readily exposed.

Rather than exhibiting a Freudian penis-envy, she is revolted by a body that exposes its sexual characteristics on the outside. The carps are a symbol for the masculine, and become a terrifying obsession. Forced, against her will, to feed the carps every day at noon, Amlie imagines her- self overpowered by the carps, possessed by them:.

Sous mon oreiller, je pleurais dhorreur. Lautosuggestion tait si forte que les gros corps cailleux et exibles me rejoignaient entre les draps, mtreignaientet leur gueu- le lippue et froide me roulait des pelles. Jtais limpubre amante de fantasmes piscifor- mes MT , my emphasis.

She is the prepubescent lover of sh-like fantasy. Yet, just as she accepts unwill- ingly the gift of three carps from her well-meaning parents, she receives the kisses of these sh-dreams with horror. The carp scene, or rather her reliving of the carp scene in her bed at night, is presented as a rape in which she becomes the involun- tary lover of carps:.

Ce ntait pas son estomac qui me dgotait, mais sa bouche, le mouvement de valvule de ses manibules qui me violaient les lvres pendant des ternits nocturnes. Violated by their mouths, she is a martyr, a victim of their incessant hunger. Women are seen as food. This image is common in adolescent girls, who dream of their bodies being eaten alive during the transformations and turmoil of puberty. Amlies own account of her sh dreams echoes this phenomenon documented in adolescent girls by psychologists such as Mary Pipher in Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.

The image of the carp, however, cannot be reduced simply to the masculine. It is not the stomach that disgusts Amlie, but the mouth of the carp. The stomach, and by extension, the intestines, entrailles, as seen in the quotation above, are symbols of the masculine sex. In contrast, the gaping mouth of the carp represents the feminine sex. There is thus a slippage in the carp symbol from the masculine to the feminine.

When Amlie claims, upon noting the useless and annoying nature of boys and specically older brothers , peut-tre faudrait-il les exterminer MT 99 , her disgust for the masculine gender echoes Prtextat Tachs own disgust of the adult feminine body in Hygine de lassassin.

Tach imagines that the extermina- tion of all women is the only solution to the feminine condition: il faut simple- ment exterminer les femmes. The carps are evoked in remarkably feminine terms. They resemble Castaore muettes, obses et vtues de fourrures chatoyantes or paisse silhouette de pois- sons-divas, de prtresses surnourries de la pisciculture MT Of course the word carp is feminine in the French language, yet Amlie goes beyond grammati- cal gender by using feminine nouns to describe the carps: divas and prtresses and Castaore.

There is a striking similarity between this description of carps, obses et vtues de fourrures chatoyantes, and Tachs description in Hygine de lassassin of girls when they mature sexually: les lles deviennent affreuses, bouton- neuses, fessues, malodorantes, poilues, nichonneuses, hancheuses [.

Other, becomes the mirror in which Amlie sees herself, female, in opposition: unique spcicit individuelle [. Nos personnalits sont nulles, nos inclinations plus banales les unes que les au- tres. Seules nos rpulsions parlent vraiment de nous MT If this trans- formed adage is true, Amlie is repulsed by her own femininity, and the place of woman in a Phallic order. Young Amlie discovers herself in this mirror of the ever-hungry, never- satised mouths of carps, whose bodies are reduced to nothing but a digestive tube which eats, processes, expels waste, and asks for more: La bouche des carpes te rendrait-elle si malade si tu ny voyais pas ton miroir ignoble?

Souviens-toi que tu es tube et que tube tu redeviendras MT , my emphasis. A tube sorti dun tu- be, the image of the carp reects her existence as a female. Born of woman, she will become a woman. The carps are a mirror of her own sex, not her parents or whole family, but the female members of her family. Si ce spectacle tobsde telle- ment, cest peut-tre parce que tu ty reconnais.

Crois-tu que ton espce soit diff- rente? Les miens mangent moins salement, mais ils mangent, et dans ta mre, dans ta sur, cest comme a aussi MT , my emphasis. The use of les miens in the masculine plural and the third person plural ils grammatically includes both the masculine and the feminine.

Yet the examples given further dene the carps as a mirror of the feminine: les miens are in fact les mien ne s, her mother and her sister and not her father or brother. She is overcome by disgust with that which represents the feminine. The carp-tube is at once the male gender, which denes the feminine as the Other or in Lacanian terms a lack, and the female gender, that which feels the hunger of this lack, expressed in the ever-open mouth of the hun- gry carp.

In her garden, Amlie sees a mirror of her decline, remarking for the rst time the passage of spring to summer il y avait eu comme un automne au printemps. Une fracheur stait fane MT Although young Amlie claims that Mai mritait bien dtre le mois des garons: ctait un mois de declin MT 95 , this fall is actually feminine. The passage of spring to summer is a meta- phor not only for the recognition of sexual inequality, but also a foreshadowing of the passage of childhood to adulthood, or puberty.

The biblical metaphor is extended: baptized Jsus, Marie, et Joseph, the carps are associated with the transubstantiation she witnesses at midday. She imagines herself to be a prtresse piscicole MT , crumbling and throwing the rice cake to the carps as if it were her own esh: ceci est mon corps livr pour vous MT In front of these sales gueules she feels the transformation of her esh as she watches the sh lips: lvres poissonneuses qui me regardaient de leur regard de l- vres, ces lvres saumtres qui souvraient et se refermaient avec un bruit obscne, ces bouches en formes de boues qui bouffaient ma bouffe avant de me bouffer moi MT The lips of the carps are obscene, nearly a vagina dentate, but with- out the need of teeth to consume.

She is that piece of bait named Ophelia. In protest, Amlie begins to deprive her own body of nourishment. This is the onset of anorexia which will later plague both Nothomb and her sister in real life the full onset at the age of thirteen and a half, the author often insiststhe age of puberty : Je maigrissais.

Aprs le djeuner des poissons, on mappelait table: je ne pouvais rien avaler MT Rather than nourish her esh so that it in turn may nourish the carps, she fasts. Re- search on anorexia has shown that this disease is an attempt to remain in childhood much like the unspoken pact in Hygine de lassassin. For example, Anorexia is [. The fall she fears is the transformation of her esh, or puberty:. Angoisse annexe: trop subir les baisers poissonneux, nallais-je pas changer desp- ce?

Nallais-je pas devenir silure? Mes mains longeaient mon corps, guettant dhallucin- antes mtamorphoses MT Her hands trace along her body, imagining the round curves of womanhood. She wishes to stop this progression, this fall. As is the case with documented cases of anorexia, the refusal to eat is an effort to make time stand still, not to grow but to go back to childhood size and functioning [.

Life, or the non-life of women, is represented as a continuous hunger and emp- tiness: la vie est ce tuyau qui avale et qui reste vide MT In contemplation of this existence, Amlie asks herself: Entre la viedes bouches des carpes qui dglu- tissentet la mortdes vgtaux en lente putrfaction , quest-ce que tu choi- sis? Quest-ce qui te donne le moins envie de vomir? Which causes the least disgust, death or a life which is neither life nor death?

Amlie answers her question by falling headrst into the pond. One must compare Amlies own attempted suicide to the group suicide de- scribed earlier in Mtaphysique des tubes. In at Okinawa, an island in the south of Japan, a group of Japanese threw themselves from a cliff, persuaded that the Americans were going to kill them. In her garden, where she no- tices the change of seasons for the rst time, the fading spring and the decadence of summer, Amlie imagines the life that awaits her, her oncoming puberty, and she refuses it.

If the best reason to commit suicide is fear of death, it is the non- life of womanhood, the death that all woman know upon maturity that Tach ex- plains in Hygine de lassassin, which Amlie fears. The carps reect to the little girl the woman she will become. In order to free herself, she chooses death. Her act is a way of regaining control. Margaret Higonnet, in Speaking Silences, Womens Suicide states that suicide is motivated by the desire to control ones own life:.

To embrace death is at the same time to read ones own life. The act is a self-barred signature; its destructive narcissism seems to some particularly feminine. Some choose to die in order to shape their lives as a whole; others fragment life to generate the energy of ssion or elision. It is not insignicant that Amlies attempted suicide occurs in a pond. Engulfed in a text riddled with biblical allusions, this pond recalls the latin Piscina, which serves in a ritual of ablution, to cleanse the body.

Suicide serves magically to purge the assaulted body21 from the metaphorical rape of the carp scene. Voluntary death is not merely a deathwish, but an incommunicable or impossible life-wish,22 for the only way for a woman to attain a state of wholeness may be to move beyond the body.

The problematic notion of an androgynous little girl is found in the gure of Ophelia, Shakespeares hero- ine destroyed by the conicting pressures of society as she stood at the brink between childhood and adulthood. Pushed and pulled by the demands of her fa- ther, her brother, her uncle, and her lover, Ophelia is eventually driven to madness. Treated like a child by all of the male gures in her life, she is silenced and eventu- ally driven to madness and death. A girl struggling through the changes of pu- berty, her sexuality, her desire, is threatening.

Her brother lectures her on chastity, her lover refuses her and suggests get thee to a nunnery. Like Ophelia, Amlie embraces suicide: dlicieusement sereine, jobserve le ciel travers la surface de ltang MT She repeats several times, as she is waiting for death: je me sens trs bien MT Queen [. Lopoldine, the false noye of Hygine de lassassin, is also reminiscent of Ophelia. Although the name Ophelia is not used in Mtaphysique des tubes, there are many parallels between this character and Amlie.

In the quote above, Ophelia is de- scribed as a creature native to that element, water. The narrator of Mtaphysique des tubes also claims several times that water is her element. Leau en dessous de moi, leau au-dessus de moi, leau en moileau, ctait moi. Ce ntait pas pour rien que mon prnom, en japonais, comportait la pluie MT Just as the death of Ophelia is ambiguous, rewritten as an accident by the queen, or a suicide by the grave diggers who place her body in a cemetery, Amlies protest is also silenced.

Amlies choice suicide , or protest, is rewritten as an accident. Not only is her suicide covered up, Amlie also nds that she does not possess her own body. She continues to show evidence of her Ophelia-like insanity, ma propre folie MT , by trying to explore the wound that she has from her fall. Je veux entrer par le trou dans ma tte et explorer lintrieur. A nurse stops her and she cries bitterly on ne possde mme pas son propre corps. She asks for a mirror, but even this is refused: Je veux me regarder dans un miroir!

Je veux voir le trou dans ma tte! The gure of Amlie-Ophelia is a metaphor for the fear of the feminine. Freu- dian hysteria, or insanity, is an unconscious revolt. This metaphorical death that occurs when the self is split in puberty or in feminine terms, cleaved , is in fact a protest.

Cixous also warns her reader of the death of a girl and womans desire :. On tue une lle: Au commencement, jai dsir. Quest-ce quelle veut? Rien que vivre. Et mentendre dire le nom.

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In a bowl besides, Japanese vegetable tempura was served. The American-raised, but pure waygu not mixed with Angus A10 beef was delicious. Smoky from the charcoal it was cooked with, the meat melted on the tongue to also release buttery beefiness. The creamy, sweet aubergine augmented the charred taste while miso controlled the richness. T he notably greaseless and still moist greens — asparagus, broccoli, baby leek, crosnes, enoki — were all fried very ably, however for me, they really were rather extraneous: the solitary and simple plate of beef and aubergine by itself was sufficient to suffice as the climatic main course.

Before the actual afters, a pleasant space dust-studded white chocolate lollipop, containing spicy lemongrass and citrus-sweet pomelo ice cream, was served. Rhubarb compote tart, strewn over with streusel; blood orange croustillant brimming with mascarpone cream and rounded off with sugared ginger baton; and a rhubarb crisp ladling ginger ice cream comprised the first dessert.

Mild mascarpone cream and foam were nicely teamed with sweet, brittle tuile , but also awfully by a capsule of ginger that emitted harsh, alcoholic syrup that was far too overpowering. The best of the bunch was the toothsome, piquant ice cream and crackly, sharp rhubarb. The ice cream of sfusato Amalfitan — queen of lemons — was deeply flavoured whilst the marinated orange, fleshy and juicy.

Airy grapefruit mousse came with sugary mint and plump citric segments. A mound of crushed dark chocolate and coffee, littered with little bricks of passion fruit jelly, was encased in a large glass sphere. It was the most modern presentation of a dish yet and resembled some sort of intergalactic-take on a biosphere. The earth of Valrhona Guanaja was quite bitter and lingered on the palate.

Maracuja had kick and played on the faint fruity note in the chocolate whilst coffee added smokiness. P etit Fours: Rose and orange marshmallow; milk chocolate almonds; lemon tartlet; cherry marzipan; Peach Melba; almond and apricot jelly; blueberry cake. Another salver served had chocolate-covered almonds with their skins interesting left on as well as one cup of rose and another of orange marshmallow tubes that were both very good. M ignardises : Valrhona chocolate truffles — Salted butter caramel; Baileys and white chocolate; rose milk chocolate; dark chocolate; white chocolate with passion fruit and coconut; thirty-year old balsamic; olive oil; coffee; saffron and verbena.

A final sweet token came in the form of Valrhona chocolate truffles. Dark choc, saffron and verbena were particularly memorable. S ervice was professional yet very personable. The atmosphere in the room was terrific. The serveuses and the surroundings all came together to create a very certain sense of festivity and event, which is precisely what I believe and expect dining at this level ought to feel like.

The ensuing two plates were both good, but it was the coquille Saint-Jacques that next stood out. This was a cleverly thought-out recipe executed very well. Blauer hummer was simply delicious: some of my favourite and quality ingredients cooked consummately and balanced brilliantly. Petit fours and mignardises were also of high standard. T he timing of this visit was not without import. As it so happened, it was around this time that my true tastes vividly revealed themselves, clearer and more concentrated than before.

Although gastronomically curious and open-minded, I must confess that my own predilections lie less towards the classics and closer to the styles currently realised best by the New Naturals. Bau is clearly rooted in the former category yet despite that — but maybe more impressive because of it — I still thought this an excellent meal and left inspirited. W hat appealed to me most today was the intimate character of the cooking.

This came through in the cuisine: intricately constructed courses that were technically faultless whilst vibrant, sometimes unexpected and even joyful. You sensed that the chef was enjoying himself in the kitchen and was proud and eager to share his cooking with you.

Bau labels his own approach as a light and contemporary interpretation of French cuisine, stating that he wants to renew tradition and that he is from a new generation of chefs cooking for a new generation of customers. He spoke very fondly of his latest visit there at the start of this year and was obviously excited by what he had found. Thus it was not unexpected then to see Oriental touches feature almost throughout our meal — what maybe was surprising was the seamlessness and seemingly effortless way in which these were integrated into dishes.

A nother appreciated aspect of this lunch was its lightness. Courses were considerable in portion and number, but remained delicate and easy-to-digest. Even given the multiple-plate methods and complex arrangements of this labour-intensive style that abhors shortcuts, there was a deceptive unfussiness in presentation and flavour combinations. Additionally, whilst sauces had relish, they were not decadently applied.

On a more minor note, a further apparent trait of the chef was his keenness for combining the humble with the luxury; the eel-beef-caviar cornet possibly being the best example of this. He allows and wants his to shine through and it does. The cooking is serious, but it is bright, caringly created and intermingled with subtle, individual nuances. Similar things can be said about the setting, which was elegant, but warmed with whimsy.

There was a quaint charm here with an honest generosity that infused the entire experience. T he already detailed air of celebration and occasion, expressed and emphasised most by Herr and Frau Bau themselves, really made the meal memorable. Furthermore, greeted, treated and then finally seen off by these two doting hosts, one is reminded of a small family restaurant. This in itself is equally winsome and endearing.

The fact that Schloss Berg is not even on the San Pellegrino top best restaurants in the world list, and the likes of Nobu London is just goes to show what pointless award it really is to win IMO. What a beautiful review. Thoughtful and elegant, your words seemed to have captured something of the meal itself. Great review FS. Bau is a true genius and I felt honoured eating two splendid meals at his restaurant.

Agreed that savouries were better than desserts but I was truly impressed with every single plate of food put in front of me. Agree, he is very unassuming but genuinely a very nice gentleman. Do let us know your thoughts should you make it there. Food Snob, I enjoy your reviews immensely but can you publish the price for say a meal for 2 people or a single person. It would be helpful so we can see what we are paying.

Not everybody is Abramovich!! Look forward to your next review. Thank you, Hirta. If it is still not clear, feel free to send me an email and I will help where I can. This is most excellent blog on gourmet cuisine I have found so far on the web. Thanx to Foodsnob I had the great pleasure to dine at Schloss Berg which I have never heard of before.

The composition of the menu was just perfect and some of the tastes will stay in my memory for a long time. Thanx for this blog again and keep up the great work! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Blog at WordPress. Dark choc, saffron and verbena were particularly memorable S ervice was professional yet very personable.

Share this: Twitter Facebook Reddit. Like this: Like Loading I am very glad you enjoyed it. Les neuf romans se partagent en diverses catgories. Ceux qui font une place royale au dialogue, si grande que, la confusion aidant, la pice fut prsen- te, sans vergogne, comme un roman elle aussi: il sagit de Hygine de lassassin, des Catilinaires, et maintenant de Cosmtique de lennemi. Ceux qui sont crits la troi- sime personne la trilogie Pplum, Attentat, Mercure , et ceux o lauteur se racon- te en disant je.

Cette dernire manire lui a inspir ses meilleurs livres, et, ce qui ne gche rien, valu ses plus grands succs: Le Sabotage amoureux, Stupeur et tremble- ments et Mtaphysique des tubes. Le Sabotage amoureux racon- tait ses jeux denfants dans le quartier des ambassades de Pkin: une sorte de Guer- re des boutons cosmopolite et asiatique.

Stupeur et tremblements relatait ses dbuts dans la vie professionnelle au Japon, qui entrana sa rupture dnitive avec le prin- cipe de ralit. Et Mtaphysique des tubes explique quil ny a pas dge pour se poser les questions des ns dernires: elle sy souvient dun mal-tre prouv lorsquelle navait pas trois ans, et qui la mena jusqu une tentative de suicide dans un tang carpes, drame ontologique que les grandes personnes se htrent bien sr de consi- drer comme un accident.

Si lon sinterroge sur le phnomnal succs de lauteur, il est bon de sattarder ces trois rcits les livres dAmlie Nothomb dpassent rarement les Dans Le Sabotage amou- reux, lenfant invente le rel, le construit sa guise, y puise de profondes dtresses quelquefois lamour sans retour, thme rcurrent, est dj prsent dans ce livre , mais dans Stupeur et tremblements les contraintes du systme social et professionnel sont telles quelles provoquent une rvolte sans appel, et dans Mtaphysique des tu- bes, il sagit tout simplement du refus dexister, de se mler la vie, davoir partie lie avec elle.

Les angoisses que Nothomb fait merger au jour sont primitives, viscrales, et chacun peut sy retrouver, ou y retrouver les premiers chos dune sorte de trag- die originelle. Dans cette expression du mal-tre foncier, de la drliction de se trouver jet-l dans le marasme du rel, Nothomb puise des fables qui parlent chacun de nous, pour peu que lon se souvienne de ses premiers vertiges et de ses premiers rejets. Amlie a trouv son issue elle: elle passe par lcriture, qui lui procure un vi- dent soulagement, et une jouissance qui peut tre contagieuse.

All this is clearly in the realms of the phenomenal. What for others would be extraordinary achievements are, with Nothomb, her own usual performance. The question is, what brings crowds of readers all over the world especially to Nothomb? The corpus consists of ten book: nine novels and a play, Les Combustibles.

The nine novels can be divided into different categories. There are those in which the dialogue has pride of place such as Hygine de lassassin, Les Catilinaires, and now, Cosmtique de lennemi and this to such an extent that, heightening the uncertainty as to the generic nature of the text, when she did write a play, it too was unapologeti- cally presented as a novel. There are those written in the third person the trilogy P- plum, Attentat, Mercure , and others in which the author speaks about herself in the rst person.

The latter method has inspired Le Sabotage amoureux, Stupeur et tremble- ments and Mtaphysique des tubes, her best works, and, without in any way detracting from them, this method has also brought her her greatest success. On three occasions in these books she explores the exceptional memories that her childhood as a Belgian diplomats daughter in the Far East have given her.

Le Sabotage amoureux recounted the childhood games in and around the area in Pe- king where the Embassies were situated, like a kind of cosmopolitan, Asian Guerre des boutons. Stupeur et tremblements told the story of her rst experience of Japanese professional life, and brought about her denitive break with realism.

Mtaphysi- que des tubes explains that there is no right age at which to wonder about mortal- ity. She remembers a feeling of malaise when she wasnt even three years old, which led to a suicide attempt in a pond full of carp, an ontological drama that the grown-ups of course were quick to call an accident. If we think about the phenomenal success of the author, its worth lingering over these three stories Amlie Nothombs books are rarely more than pages long, short enough for an experienced reader caught up in the momentum to read them in the time it takes for the Thalys to go from Paris to Brussels , because they are all based on a conict with the world.

In Le Sabotage amoureux, the child in- vents reality, fashions it as she wishes, and sometimes gets from it profound dis- tress unrequited love, a recurring theme, is already present in this work but in Stupeur et tremblements the constraints of the social and professional structures are such that they provoke a revolt that permits no going back, and in Mtaphysique des tubes it is a question quite simply of refusing to exist, to be involved in life, to play any part in it.

The anxieties that Nothomb brings to light are primitive, visceral, and anyone can identify with them, or recognize in them the rst echoes of a kind of primal tragedy. By voicing that fundamental uneasiness with self, by depicting what it feels like to nd oneself abandoned in the midst of lifes dreariness, Nothomb creates fables that have meaning for every one of us, if only we can remember our rst moments of disorientation and the rst time we felt rejection.

Son hygine mentale passe par le style, qui est souvent brillant, parce quun cynisme de bon ton y va de pair avec une drlerie dexcellente compagnie. Amlie Nothomb a t bien leve, et elle ne le renie pas, elle sait comment dco- cher des ches assassines sans se dpartir dun sourire dhtesse exemplaire.

Elle est, en ce sens, la digne hritire de ces grandes bourgeoises et aristocrates qui ont su dboulonner avec toute llgance voulue les univers o elles se dbattaient: el- le est, tout compte fait, proche de Jane Austen, de Louise de Vilmorin, mais qui seraient devenues belges.

Car Amlie Nothomb, avec un b comme Belgique, est belge, comme son illus- tre nom lindique, et elle ne se soigne pas pour autant, trop certaine, comme elle le dit dans son avant-dernier livre, que Dieu lest certainement aussi, puisquelle eut la certitude, autour de trente-six mois, dtre son incarnation. Being absolutely con- vinced that her suffering is incurable instils from the beginning a desperate hu- mour which wells up from her carefully double-edged phrase, and from her clev- erly selected vocabulary.

Her often brilliant style plays a crucial part in ensuring her mental well-being because a tasteful cynicism goes hand in hand with a perfectly matched comedy. Amlie Nothomb has been well brought up, she does not deny this and she knows how to shoot deadly arrows without losing the perfect smile of the society hostess. In that sense, she is the worthy heiress to those great middle- class and aristocratic women who knew how to dismantle with such elegance the worlds in which they struggled.

She is, all said and done, close to what Jane Austen or Louise de Vilmorin would have been, had they been Belgian. For Amlie Nothomb, with a b as in Belgium, is Belgian, as her illustrious name indicates. She does not make a big issue of the fact, since, as she says in her penul- timate book, God is too, because she was convinced at the age of thirty-six months of being his incarnation.

A diplomats daughter, she grew up in the Far East, and was seventeen before she visited Europe. So totally different was it from what she had imagined through her extensive reading of European literature that the experience was to in- form her development as a writer. She studied Romance Philology at the Universi- t Libre de Bruxelles, but more importantly, she also started writing during this pe- riod, a time in which she felt alienated and misunderstood.

Struck by what she terms a chronic writing disease la maladie de lcriture , Amlie Nothomb has become a famously prolic writer who published her rst novel at the age of twenty-ve. In particular, winning the Grand Prix du roman de lAcadmie franaise in for Stupeur et tremblements has really put her name on the literary map. In each work, she combines the acutely personal with grand philosophical questions about the nature of existence.

This ability to combine the public and private, the microcosm and the macrocosm so deftly is perhaps in part due to her particularly cosmopolitan upbringing, Nothomb even referring to herself as une apatride belge, the seemingly contradictory terms somehow encapsulating her peculiar position in which Belgian identity is both afrmed and renounced. Nothombs phenomenal success goes far beyond Belgian and French borders, as her work has been translated into thirty languages German, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Japanese, Polish, Russian to name but a few.

Despite this world- wide interest, to date only four titles have been translated into English, and no full- length study of the author exists in English. It will become evident that Nothombs uvre outs genre conventions and dees facile literary classication. Many genres are represented within the body of her work: autobiographical and semi-autobiographical texts, science ction, fan- tasy, rewritings of fairy tales, epics and myths.

Margaret-Anne Hutton has ob- served that despite the variety in Nothombs wide-ranging uvre, one recurring factor common to all her works can be traced: conict of all kinds. Prtextat Tach, protagonist of Nothombs rst novel, Hygine de lassassin , is an arrogant, vulgar and misogynistic hulk who has just won the Nobel prize for his literary uvre of twenty-two novels.

He treats his opponents, ve journalists who have come from all over the world to interview him, with the greatest contempt. The novelists cruel cynicism and coarsenessjournalists are, in his opinion, mere parasites living off creators whose work they havent even readquickly scare away the rst four. But the last one, Nina, who knows his books in great detail, dis- covers the horrible secret that lies hidden in his literary works: as an adolescent, he strangled his cousin Lopoldine to prevent her from becoming a woman.

In his own view, he saved her by giving her eternal youth. At the end of a biting and daz- zling dialogue, the female journalist puts the monstrous Tach quite literally to si- lence. In this autobiographical text, Nothomb describes the closed world of a compound of foreign diplomats and their children in communist Beijing between and The narrative perspective is that of a seven-year-old girl.

This young rst-person narrator considers her bike to be a horse, quotes Wittgenstein and Baudelaire, re- ects on beauty and war, ridicules adults and falls in love with the ravishing Elena. This authentic, absolute love is both fantastic and tragic, because unrequited. A state of war also constitutes the background of Les Combustibles , to date Nothombs only play.

In a besieged city, three charactersa Professor, his as- sistant Daniel and the student Marinahave taken refuge in the Professors apart- ment. Outside, the bombing and shelling continue, whilst inside the pressing question of survival centres around one particular issue: how to ght against the cold? The only combustible item left in the house is in the Professors library: his books. Soon the protagonists not only ask each other which book should be saved for last, but, more perversely, which book is worth giving up one single moment of physical warmth.

In Les Catilinaires , yet another conned space constitutes the setting of the devastating events that ruin the lives of the protagonists. A retired couple, mile and Juliette, have just moved to a house in the woods where they hope to quietly spend the last years of their life together. Their calm solitude is however cruelly disturbed by their obese neighbour, Palamde Bernardin, who, every day between four and six oclock, invites himself into their house, gets himself settled down, hardly saying a word.

His presence and silence drive the couple to distraction and the absurdity of the situation is enhanced when they discover the existence of Mme Bernardin who is so corpulent that she can hardly move. However, when mile decides to act against the rude neighbours undesired inltration into their space, the roles of perpetrator and victim slowly become blurred.

The title of the fourth novel refers to a womans garment that was worn in an- cient times: Pplum In a book that combines science ction, satire and his- torical events, ancient past and future times are linked together through the bu- rying of Pompeii under the ashes of Vesuvius, in 79 a.

During a short stay at the hospital, the writer A. Her encounter with one of the major instiga- tors, the scientist Celsius, results in a heated conversation in which a great number of topics are discussed. These include the great war that took place in the 22nd cen- tury; abstract issues such as the virtual and the real; travelling in time, but also timeless issues such as art, philosophy and morality. In Attentat we are presented with the very unappealing Epiphane Otos, who, despite being aesthetically challenged with few redeeming features in the per- sonality stakes, manages to become the darling of the modelling world, ambassa- deur de la monstruosit internationale, and who falls in love with the young and beautiful Ethel.

Like many of Nothombs works, the theme of beauty is paramount, yet as the reference to Baudelaire conrms, Le beau est toujours bizarre A This introduces us to the pathological extremes to which the protagonist will be driven in pursuit of the woman he desires. Attentat concludes with Epiphanes contemplation of his murder of Ethel while he is imprisoned.

Musing on his current situation, he notes that now he will have plenty of time at his disposal to write. Imprisonment is not as bad as all that, he ponders. In Mercure , the theme of freedom and imprisonment is pursued, in a mock Gothic tale. Mercure tells the story of the young Hazel Englert, who, since she was orphaned in , leads a secluded life on an island off the coast of Cher- bourg with an old man, Omer Loncours.

Led to believe that she has been badly disgured by the bombardment which killed her parents, she is kept from seeing her reection: there are no mirrors in the house, nor is there anything that would offer a reection. Omer employs a nurse to look after Hazel. Franoise Chavaigne arrives and is dumbfounded by the ways in which her employer and her charge lead their lives.

She makes it her mission to enlighten Hazel about her situation the fact that she is not hideously disgured but of breathtaking beauty , but will nd to her horror that when she nally gets the chance to expose the old mans decep- tion, Hazels response is perhaps not what she had bargained for.

Stupeur et tremblements is written under the auspices of autobiography. Claimed to represent a year spent as a stagiaire in for a Japanese import- export company, the narrator takes us through the ritual humiliations at the hand of her superiors that become a fact of life, as she descends ever lower in the corpo- rate ladder, nally ending up as a Dame Pipi. A text that provoked outrage as well as acclaim, Nothomb sets up and dismantles stereotypes, in a genre which blends the real and the surreal.

Amlie-san can one minute be describing her struggles with her bosss expense accounts, the next minute be cavorting naked out of hours in the ofce, or contemplating the vertiginous drop from the window. Funny, eloquent and imaginative, ofce politics and the abuse of hierarchies are all too recognizable in this compelling tale. In Mtaphysique des tubes the author takes us further back in time, to the portrayal of the narrator as an infant. What is more, an infant who thinks she is God.

The rst three years of the childs life in Japan are depicted from the perspec- tive of an interior monologue in which the childs power to name even takes on biblical proportions. Family anecdotes become existential dramas in which the nar- rator has to overcome obstacle after obstacle to survive, questioning the ways of the world in the process.

Finally, the intimate dialogues of the earlier works bring the narrative in No- thombs most recent publication, Cosmtique de lennemi back to the huis clos. Set in an airport lounge, two voices are heard in dialogue. One of them be- longs to Jrme Angust, the other to Textor Texel, an enigmatic other whose true identity is revealed at the end to be none other than Angusts alter ego.

He re- morselessly pursues Angust, so desperate is he for an ear to listen to his confessional, despite Angusts protestations; he is racked with guilt about a mur- der he believes he may have committed as a child, haunted by an ennemi intrieur,. In the rst section, Autobiography and Gender, questions concerning the juxta- position of true and veriable biographemes with situations and characters exag- gerated to the point of the absurd will be discussed in relation to theories of read- ing and gender identity.

Despite the fantastical and the absurd, the readers disbelief is suspended all along as childhood becomes the nostalgic centre which offers the possibility of freedom to choose ones own gender. A sense of injustice concerning gender and the discovery of individual identity seem to coincide in the fragments of the authors childhood described in the autobiography. In her article, Hlne Jaccomard examines the consequences that Nothombs three autobiographical works, Le Sabotage amoureux, Stupeur et tremblements and Mtaphysique des tubes have on the autobiographical pact.

Jaccomard argues that memories in Nothombs tales of childhood insist on the search for identity through language. Language expression is at the heart of the formation of the protagonists metaphysical, national and gender identities, to the extent that story- telling is an inherent part of Nothombs autobiographical style. Nothombs per- sonality remains a self in fabula, and is thus uncommitted to truthtelling. The issue of gender inequality is discussed by Dsire Pries, who focuses on the image of the carp in Mtaphysique des tubes.

Through the dual image of the carp in this workcarps are a symbol for the masculine, but they are also evoked in femi- nine termsthe autobiographical account of Nothombs earliest childhood mem- ories is studied as a metaphor for the traumatic transformation of a young girls body, which indicates the passage of childhood to adulthood. Pries demonstrates that the girls attempt to remain pre-adolescentby becoming anorexic or at- tempting suicideresults in a redenition of the female body and in the concep- tion of an alternative feminine identity.

Female and male bodies are the objects of study in the second section of this volume, Representations of the body. In the rst article of this section, Victoria Korzeniowska examines formal aspects of the presentation of the body in Nothombs writing through elements of the fantastical and by focusing on the power of imagination. In Stupeur et tremblements, the patterns of the heroines bodily movements play an important role in the construction of her reality and are counteracted by the use of imagination.

Korzeniowska illustrates that corporeal interaction with space and the creative potential of imagination allow for resis- tance, subversion, transgression and free-thinking. The idealization of female bodies, on the contrary, seems to reduce the freedom of stunningly beautiful female characters such as the young Hazel in Mercure, who. In a number of Nothombs novels for example Hygine de lassas- sin, Attentat and Les Catilinaires , the sublime beauty of a female protagonist con- trasts sharply with a hideous male monster.

This image of an incompatible couple blurs commonplace conceptions that associate thinness with virtue and fatness with evil. Catherine Rodgers argues that the real nature of Nothombian beauty re- sides in its thinness, its virginity and its asexuality, which leaves no room for a fe- male, adult, sexual body. Hence the promotion of an anorexic alternative that en- ables the female characters to maintain their childlike angelic appearance.

They are anked by hideous individuals: these are repulsive males whose objective is to con- trol the Other. Lnak Le Garrec explores this contrast between beauty and ugliness through the representations of male and female characters. In her study, the mirror plays an essential role, as this magical element not only reveals the protagonists physical ap- pearance, but also Nothombs different conceptions of self.

If the mirror conrms beauty, as in fairytales, and confrontsmostly malecharacters with their unat- tractive features, it is also stressed that its nature can be deceptive. By focusing on the deceitful characteristics of angels and monsters, Le Garrec shows that Nothombs works disrupt the established order by rejecting the norms of beauty, thus putting our supercial society on trial. Philippa Caine further explores the rupture of common dualisms by considering the deconstructive inscriptions of fe- male corporeality in Nothombs narratives.

Caine uses the notion of entre-deux writing to examine the associations of womens bodies with slenderness and beauty as well as with corpulence and abjection. These elements are related to cer- tain dogmas of Western discoursesuch as phallocentric fears of the eshy fe- male bodythat are effectively exploited in Nothombs uvre. In the nal contribution of this section, Jean-Marc Terrasse proposes to tackle the representation of monstrosity by using the Derridean notion of the monstre vnementiel.

Terrasses poetic exploration and deconstruction of male and fe- male demons and angels focuses on their voices and silence, and on the ways in which they seek to enslave or love each other. In the section devoted to Narrative Practice, the essays engage, to greater and lesser degrees, with the entirety of Nothombs uvre. They focus on stylistic as- pects of her work and authorial preoccupations, in particular the use of dialogue; the role of humour; intertextuality and the relationship between author and reader; questions of authorship, status and canons of literature; linguistic virtuos- ity and gures of language; beginnings and endings.

Amlie Nothombs ear for dialogue brings her often monstrous characters to life, whether its the domineering writer Prtextat Tach of Hygine de lassassin who reduces all journalists to quivering wrecks, or the hideously ugly Epiphane Otos, the domineering protagonist of Attentat. She explores the function of the authors dialogic games in a broader context in order to assess their pertinence as vehicles for philosophical enquiry. Claire Gorrara then examines the status of the author and authorship in the de- bate on literatures value to the individual and the collective which is presented in Les Combustibles.

In this play, the values espoused by a trio in an unknown city under siege are put under the spotlight. Pursuing the intertextual vein here, pa- rodic reworkings of genres such as littrature engage raise important questions about the status of authors and critics, highlighting the demands upon the reader to be attentive and erudite too.

The relationship between the erudite author and the literary world, and what Jordan calls her poetics of virtuosity, is then explored in terms of intertextuality by Susan Bainbrigge, who questions the nature of the relationship between author, intertext and reader in Mercure, paying particular at- tention to Nothombs fascination for 19th century Romantic and Gothic literature. In this hybrid text the reader can only wonder at the image of the vertiginous es- calier anachronique, an unstable escape route which enables the heroine of the story to ee her captor, and perhaps also a metaphor for the authors own writing practice.

In David Gascoignes essay, parody and irony emerge in his study of the wide- ranging and highly coloured gures of language in Nothombs textual landscapes. Within Nothombs poetics of excess, he examines the origins of the voice, whether at its source an irritant, an intruder, or an unwelcome arrival in an ordered world provoking the primal scream. He charts in various texts the overwhelming feeling of power that is garnered by the act of naming, not forgetting the authors ritual or incantatory use of language as another means of reaching more searching and visceral levels of expression and provocation.

Laureline Amanieux identies one particular inuence on Nothomb: the image of Dionysus, and the pervasiveness of images of doubles and duality in her texts. She presents and compares several examples of Dionysian characters in order to demonstrate the ambivalence and necessity of their sublime feelings and their monstrosity, and then goes on to argue that the author combines these dual feel- ings in the creative momentum of writing itself.

Linguistic skill is matched by complex narrative strategies; in particular, endings are the focus of articles by Mark Lee and Marinella Termite. Lee explores the writ- ing of childhoods end in Nothombs works, by drawing up an inventory of threshold scenes in different texts, and assessing the varied representations of them and their importance in the creation of the authors literary voice.

Termite looks more generally at the ways in which the author concludes, especially her use of role reversal and alternative endings in texts which mirror the destructive titles assigned to them. Termite argues that Nothomb disrupts and subverts her narra- tives, defying in the process generic codes and conventions. Andrew Wilson and Adriana Hunters translations mark an important turning point in making Nothombs works available to an English-speaking audience.

To close the volume we are delighted to present the transcription of an interview conducted with the author in January in which we discuss with her a number of the questions raised at the conference in the presentations and discussions. Full references for Nothombs works are listed in the bibliography.

See Yolande Helm, Amlie Nothomb: lenfant terrible des lettres belges de langue franaise, tudes Francophones, 11 , p. De toute faon, je ne me sens bien nulle part. Cela sappelle tre apatride, jimagine. Et cependant, si je ne suis chez moi nulle part, je nen suis pas moins une apatride belge, in Une Apatride belge, Belgique toujours grande et belle, Revue de lUniversit de Bruxelles , ed.

See interview in this volume, and Yolande Helm, op. Scholarly articles on Nothombs writing are listed in the bibliography. Le royaume du conte nest autre chose que lunivers familial bien clos et bien dlimit o se joue le drame premier de lhomme. Sigmund Freud proposed fairly convincingly that memories are formed and constructed at the time of remembrance, to the extent that our memory is without memories.

Cela na pas dimportance. Sagissant dun nonc aussi invriable, je vois moins que jamais lintrt dtre crdible. Can the reader nd her auto- biographical texts satisfactory? The autobiographical vein is not the main thrust of Amlie Nothombs works to date, and judging from her latest novel, Cosmtique de lennemi,5 she has, mo- mentarily at least, stemmed the ow.

Possibly because of her youth, the autobio- graphical impulse is also fairly sporadic, and does not appear to be a sustained, concerted attempt at writing an autobiography. Dates of publication, which are not necessarily proof of time of writing with Amlie Nothomb, do not corre- spond to the chronology of life events. Mtaphysique des tubes, which came last, ac- tually goes back further in time than the rst, and the middle text Stupeur et trem- blements 6 deals with a more recent event than the other two see Appendix.

Tu dois te souvenir! Puisque tu ne vivras pas toujours au Japon, puisque tu seras chas- se du jardin [. Le souvenir a le m- me pouvoir que lcriture [. In this postmodern age, memories and writing are strangely uncomplicated words under Nothombs pen, to the point that it begs the question: what do these fragments contribute to her early promise and, perhaps more importantly for the reader, to the ever problematic genre of autobiography?

Ill take Nothombs latest autobiographical publication, Mtaphysique des tubes, the book of her genesis, as a canvas into which, when pertinent, threads from Le Sabotage amoureux and, to a lesser extent, Stupeur et tremblements can be woven. On this tapestry, three overlap- ping pictures of the protagonist emergeas a metaphysical being, a gendered being, and a national being.

The striking beginning of Mtaphysique des tubesAu commencement il ny avait rienblends hyperbole and philosophy, the hallmark of all three works, and the ending: Ensuite il ne sest plus rien pass. The metaphysical terminology has overtones of Nietzschean and Sartrian philosophizing, and the irony of a page text starting with the word nothing and nishing with rien will strike more than one reader, in addition to the fact that on a factual level, it is clearly not true.

The character continues to live; she even becomes a writer and a narrator who writes about other sequences of her ensuing life. The assertion [Ensuite il ne sest plus rien pass] is true if we accord a philosophical meaning to the word nothing: nothing of value, nothing of note. Such an airy nihilism is not new, and can be as- sociated with the clich that infancy is a lost paradise as in a fable.

Marguerite Your- cenar for instance, in her memoirswhere she studiously avoids talking about her- selfcites a letter written as a child to her aunt following the death of her dog: Cest en somme ma premire composition littraire; jaurais pu aussi bien men te- nir l. Richard N. Coes seminal work, When the Grass was Taller, detects a decidedly mystical tendency in many of the six hundred of what he terms Childhoods with a capital C, all texts dealing with the early years of life.

For instance, in the rst volume of his autobiography, Michel Leiris sets about narrating la mtaphysi- que de lenfance9 which, incidentally, might have provided Nothomb with her title. Many writers in Coes corpusto which we can now add Nothombbe- lieve in a communal subconscious, listing numerous cases of early irrational intui- tions such as intimations of immortality. Nothombs views of childhood and iden- tity are then relatively commonplace in tales of childhood, yet they have rarely been pushed to their logical conclusions as in Mtaphysique des tubes and Le Sabo- tage amoureux.

She discovered death before discovering life: Mort! Qui mieux que moi savait? Le sens de ce mot, je venais peine de le quitter [. MT The theme of death within life pervades literature in general, and Nothombs texts in particular, with an unusual degree of elaboration and transmu- tation: death is, at the very least, not the scarecrow adults assume it to be.

In fact the four-year old Amlie courts death a few times, and if she doesnt tell her mother that she tried to commit suicide in the sh pond MT its only to pro- tect her from the truth. But if we are to believe Michel Picard, quand on parle de la mort, on parle toujours dautre chose,10 if we accept therefore that Death stands here as a mere decoy, Nothomb is speaking not of the death of her body, but that of a delusion.

She loses her self-image as an ego endowed with willpower, supreme condence, and acute consciousness. Lautre chose Nothomb deals with, is the loss of the childs natural sense of the divine. The author represents her former self as closer to unmediated truths via her nat- ural mysticism, than any other person, any other adult. As Coe writes, the child, through its inspired fantasies is still able to participate more immediately than the average adult in the common, total past of the human race.

In fact, baby Amlie is beyond any adult-made philosophy, in a nothingness outside any category imagined by man, be it time, movement, evolution, existence: tre ou ne pas tre, telle ntait pas sa question MT The baby, God or the Plant, is the essence of a cosmic nothing, le rien with only one force, its force dinertie MT The implication is that this baby in its claim to nihilism represents the purest condition imaginable, maybe a state all babies go through, if only for shorter periods of time than Amlie Nothomb, but which they forget about.

She is unique in the sense that not only did she not forget that stage, but she can put into language what is in essence a non-language stage. Si jeune et dj surdoue,12 a critic comments ironically. Her remarkable feat is to make us forget that she is not writing her memories, be they early ones, but recon- structing pre-verbal sensations.

In fact, this and the idea that a baby might feel like a God, or a cosmic entity, is carried out in the most serious tone by a narrator who is a typically Nothombian, argumentative, seemingly logical thinker au fait with Cartesian reasoning. An amusing metatextual comment can apply to this very text: the narrator mentions Slawomir Mrozek who is supposed to have written remarks on tubes that are either confondants de profondeur ou superbement dsopilants MT 9. Both qualications apply simultaneously to these texts whose serious tone is constantly undercut by irony.

In her book of genesis, Mtaphysique des tubes, mock-serious ourish tinges the telling of each new phase of baby Amlies life. Past her second birthday she grows out of the pure principle of Nirvana13 she embodied so far and for the next six months, she is mad with rage, a kind of wrath of God, which stems from her real- ization that she is not all-powerful, she is not in control of the world MT As with the sudden eruption of her divine anger, the causation of events is illogical.

In a pastiche of a sacred text, the two-and-a half year old discovers a unique sense of identity. As in a fairy-tale she is bestowed a faiththe primacy of her Selfwhen eating a piece of chocolate entering the oral stage or experiencing the holy communion?

This veil au plaisir via the marvellously symbolic Belgian chocolate, this moment of adumbration, is followed by the narrators musing on the logical links between self, voluptuousness, and memory, as if her design was to rewrite infant psychol- ogy and western philosophy and religion in one fell swoop. Facetious as it is, this sophistry nonetheless holds some truth, the unproven truths of the mystical child. There is a similar, although less central, scene, in Le Sabotage amoureux when the ve-year-old Amlie arrives in China, after having drunk a mug of strong tea: La thine est en train de provoquer des feux dartice dans mon crne.

Sans en rien laisser paratre je suis folle dexcitation. Tout me semble grandiose, commencer par moi SA It is signicant that such exhilaration should arise from her com- ing into contact with China, a foreign culture for a Belgian child who had been living so far in Japan. The underlying connection between the two scenes in Mta- physique des tubes and Le Sabotage amoureux is the protagonists exploration of a na- tional identity: what does it mean for Amlie Nothomb, born in Japan and bred in many foreign, far-eastern countries, to be Belgian.

It comes as no surprise that No- thomb, daughter of a diplomat with a multitude of short-term postings, should be concerned with national identity. Her discovery of Europe at seventeen in- duced in her un malaise pathologique. A case in point that is particularly telling for our study, is Jacques Lecarmes use of Belgian child- hood tales to support the following analysis: Serait-ce alors une caractristique culturelle que le dsir de raffermir une appartenance culturelle toujours problma- tique en remontant aux sources du euve?

Pour moi, il ny avait pas des langues, mais une seule et grande langue dont on pouvait choisir les variantes japonaises ou franaises, au gr de sa fantaisie MT She accepts that East and West meet in her, a hybrid being. This is embodied in her choice of the best rst words to utter, as obvious performative speech-acts: Javais dj donn leur nom quatre personnes [maman, papa, aspirateur sic et ma sur]; chaque fois, cela les rendait si heureuses que je ne doutais plus de lim- portance de la parole: elle prouvait aux individus quils taient l MT Pas- tiche never being very far away, the chapter about speaking is articulated around Saussures linguistic distinctions between langage and parole.

It is also obvious that Nothomb is inverting other philosophers theories of language: Barthes mais aussi Foucault, Derrida et Lacan[pensent que] le Moi nest rien dautre que le produit du langage, ltre nexiste que par lnonciation.

Language is indeed at the heart of all existences. Language expression set in national hybridity is later dramatized in an episode where Amlie is drowning in the seaa very Japanese setting since la purica- tion, labsolution par leau, est une donne culturelle du Japon17 as well as an am- niotic-like liquidand the seventh French word uttered by little Amlie MT This secular baptism forces her to call au secours, thereby confessing que je par- lais la langue de mes parents MT Yet something did drown in the Sea of Japan: her muteness in French and her preference for the Japanese language which she talked freely with her Japanese nanny.

Reconciled now with her two national identities, she starts a series of many compromises with universal values. She has to separate the two varieties of the mother language she imagined existed beyond all distinctions. Ultimately she will have to nd a less provisional answer to her quest for identity: to be a hybrid leaves open the question of the respective dos- ages of the national inuences. More importantly hybridity is an uncomfortable position to occupy as it threatens those people attached to unambiguous notions of nationhood.

That is the reason why, in a reverse, ironical gesture of disappro- priation, the narrator of Stupeur et tremblements will have to give up her Japanese language skills while working as an interpreter for a Japanese company: Comment nos partenaires [dit Monsieur Saito] auraient-ils pu se sentir en conance, avec une Blanche qui comprenait leur langue? A partir de maintenant, vous ne parlez plus japonais ST It is also revealing that the ending of Stupeur et tremblements would coincide with the birth of the writera French-speaking writer.

Possibly because Stupeur et tremblements deals with Amlie as an adult, the question of na- tional identity is treated, somewhat disappointingly, by way of simplied stereo- types for instance, her comments on Japanese intolerance for Westerners ways ST , whereas, in Le Sabotage amoureux, with its child protagonist, that ques- tion still makes up a polysemic dramatic element of the plot.

Le Sabotage amoureux, like Mtaphysique des tubes, hails a heady celebration of childhood18 as the narrators and the protagonists minds seem again truly fused,19 and the distance between adult author and younger self almost abolished as a man- ifestation of Nothombs statement: Je suis une nostalgique jamais de mon enfan- ce. The word romanticized might seem exaggerated since Amlie, together with the children of many nations living in Beijings diplomatic com- pound, are waging a war between themselves.

Their war is presented, like Yves Roberts classic lm La guerre des boutons , as no less real in the minds of the children as an adult war, and certainly purer in its objectives, and rules. It is based on honour, and nobody gets killed, just humiliated. Et nous, nous faisions juste le contraire. Ayez des enfants SA Violent historical events World War Two is also the backdrop to Mtaphysique des tubes, with Nishio-sans horric tales of her family being wiped out by accidents and by the bombing of Hiroshimaemphasize the notion that adulthood is a corrupt stage of human- kind, and how death and loss in fact underscore Amlies happy childhood.

In effect, the divide between the world of adults and the world of children in Le Sabotage amoureux is as pronounced as in Mtaphysique des tubes, with adults always slightly silly, inadequate, and certainly never bearers of truths. Compared with her godlike, all-knowing, haughty self, the adults surrounding Amlie her parents, her Belgian grandmother, Kashima-san, called the Antechrist MT 73 , Nishio- san, the doctors , are just like children, wide-eyed, incomprehending, over- whelmed by whatever situation they encounter.

Autobiographies are basically romans familiaux: Marthe Robert went as far as making le roman familial the origin of all writings where le remplacement de ses parents par de plus intressants implique leur suppression. It is as if a literary smokescreen shrouded the usual autobiographical exhibition of unresolved family dynamics.

In Le Sabotage amoureux adults are no more than a hindrance to the childrens self-important manoeuvres; they must be surveills SA50 and contained. Grown-ups exemplify the absurdity of un-enlightened human beings who have warped views on true priorities. The dichotomy between children and adults is no- where better exemplied in Le Sabotage amoureux than in the love story between six-year-old Amlie and an Italian girl, Elena, a story which thematizes the forma- tion of gender identity, the third focal point of these texts.

As bets the metaphysical child, that love is of the purest kind as in a Greek tragedythe parallels with Omers Iliad are made explicit SA with Elena a substitute for Helen of Troy. It is not the rst autobiographical text to contain a precocious love story, for instance, Romain Garys La Promesse de laube and his pre-pubescent protagonist infatuated with cruel Valentine,23 or Marcel Pagnol who, as an eleven-year-old, is subjugated by a poets tyrannical daughter.

Les adultes disent parfois aux enfants: Vous ne pouvez pas savoir ce quest lamour. Cest une chose que lon apprend quand on est grand. Cela veut dire que les adultes ont oubli un tas de choses, quils ne veulent pas vous parler ou quils font les idiots. Je me souviens trs bien qu lge de 7 ans, je suis tomb amoureux pour la premire fois. Elenas ultra-feminine behaviour challenges Amlies views that lhumanit tait divise en trois catgories: les femmes, les petites lles et les ridi- cules SA Amlie holds onto her conception regardless.

Beyond the sheer in- tensity of discovering love for the rst time and for someone who is incapable of reciprocating, the parallels with previous childhood tales stop here. In Le Sabotage amoureux unrequited love produces fantasies of cruelty and, following the advice of her mother, her only signicant input in her daughters life, Amlie calculatingly pretends indifference in order to win over Elena, all in vain. The protagonist learns many lessons about love and in particular that heroic actions such as peeing over the enemy.

With her usual hyper- bolic pen the narrator states at the very end of Le Sabotage amoureux: Merci Ele- na, parce quelle ma tout appris de lamour SA This nal tout is of the same ilk as the initial rien of Mtaphysique des tubes, it is all at once trivially and deeply true and false. The trivial tends to focus on an ducation sentimentale of sorts, and turns the attention away from the more intimate theme of Amlies gen- der identity formation, the real tout of her learning.

This is after all a love between two little girls. In pre-sexual loves the gender of the lovers is often irrelevant to the story, although this same-sex love can be ana- lysed as an attempt at seducing the bad mother. In Mtaphysique des tubes Amlies awareness of gender differences is framed by her avowed disgust for boys and men, les ridicules. In Japan, the month of May is, unjustly in the protagonists mind, dedicated to boys, through the worshipping of carps, emblme du sexe moche MT Amlies sickened fascination for water and carps leads her parents to give her three carps for her third birthday, a real fall from the divine age, and the beginning of a period of anguish and gender confusion, as if her parents wanted to endow her with a phallic attribute.

It would be however simplistic to assume that carps, in the childs eyes, represent penises. In Stupeur et tremblements to a lesser extent, the same-sex sado-masochistic pat- tern played out between Elena and little Amlie is repeated between a twenty-year- old Amlie and Fubuki Mori. In a way, then, she has learnt rien instead of tout. The narrator, however, shows a rare hint of compassion for Fubuki, the epitome of the Japanese woman whose only alternative is suicide or abject submission to macho values ST Nothombs commiseration for Japanese women tends to cancel out misogynistic pronouncements in her other works, as in Hygine de lassassin.

Her proposition might be that this is what a search for identity is: never closed, never concluded. In view of the three works themesthe protagonists metaphysical, national and gendered identities , and their common tonehyperbolic, ironic, provoca- tive with a sustained foregrounding of their ctional and literary naturewould the reader be right in signing the autobiographical pact?

We have to bear in mind that readers dont tie down autobiographers any more to a dogmatic generic pact, expecting rather aesthetic pleasure from overlaps and playful infringements of strict genre rules, working out for themselves each texts own mode of reading. Notwithstanding her unsophisticated views of childhood memories and her provocative, self-assured, reversal of the tenets of autobiography, Nothomb does not spoil the modern-day trend that blurs the boundaries between ction and au- tobiography.

Nothomb belongs to a generation well aware of, and contributing to, changing horizons of expectations, and the new norms of compulsory aporia and contradictions regarding the various components that make up the writing of a life: self, truth, memories, etc.

Contemporary writers are inclined simultaneously to exaggerate and deprecate the autobiographical labelling, and obscure any pos- sible generic dichotomy between autobiography and novel, in particular with re- gards to truthtelling. The pendulum of truth oscillates between ction and faction since Andr Gides standofsh remark in a mere footnote to his own autobiogra- phy: Peut-tre mme approche-t-on de plus prs la vrit dans le roman [que dans les mmoires]31 which is echoed by David Maloufs words: Maybe, in the end, even the lies we tell dene us.

And better, some of them, than our most earnest at- tempts to tell the truth. Tout ceci doit tre considr comme dit par un personnage de roman,33 writes Roland Barthes in his own subversive autobiography; Serge Doubrovsky pursues and the- orizes his series of autoctions, or ctions of his own self: Si jessaie de me rem- morer, je minvente. Je suis dguise en mon contrai- re, en vieux bonhomme obse, trs clbre et mourant, pour dire tout ce que je pensais.

Nonetheless, we have found a method in her autobiographical style: the system- atic use of exaggeration, reversal, humour, and pieces of sophistry, suggesting that pastiche informs the three texts: pastiche of the book of genesis and educational treatises in Mtaphysique des tubes; pastiche of tragedy and war stories including a love war in Le Sabotage amoureux; and nally a tangled pastiche of a sado- masochistic roman dducation, polar psychologique38 and rapport de stage39 in Stupeur et tremblements.

Such a formula is also put to good use in her novels see for instance Pplum, the pastiche of a futuristic novel, or Mercure, a reworking of Beauty and the Beast. A question remains nonetheless with regards to the auto- biographical works: what is the point of Nothombs pastiches? There are obvious moral lessons propounded by the condent narrator, very much as in a conte. Nothombs views on childhood are reminiscent specically of the Emperors new clothes, where children expose adults aws.

In fairy tales it is quite acceptable to create a playful, magical atmosphere where archetypal adults good, bad, cruel, sa- viours etc. Nothomb in fact borrows from a specic type of conte, the conte philoso- phique. Take for instance Le Sabotage amoureuxs allusions to Candide, with Vol- tairian sentences such as Nous le hassions tous pour ces motifs excellents SA Contes philosophiques always volunteer moral lessons which in this case could be worded as follows: Urges such as violence and love are innate and atavistic.

Edu- cators should accept that Le Sabotage amoureux. Adults have to acknowledge and grieve for the lost spiritual, egotistical child in them Mtaphysique des tubes ; Sado-masochism is at the heart of the Japanese identity and possibly all love af- fairs Stupeur et tremblements. Not everybody might agree that such crude word- ing does justice to the complexity of those multilayered, polysemic tales, but it is undeniable that all three books promote the view that there is no such thing as civ- ilization: barbarism reigns supreme, in boys and girls, in childhood, in adulthood, in Japan, in China, in families, in love and war, in the past and the present.

Fairy-tale truths belong on a different plane to autobiographical truths, as they dont rely on accuracy or memory. They apply collectively to humankind, but do not disclose much about specic individuals. Now we can see the point of using the conventions of the conte. For the writer too, it serves a purpose: not to reveal publicly Amlie Nothombs personality of the esh-and- blood person, one of the classical expectations of the genre of autobiography, but to add to the disguise by dressing herself in fantasy clothing.

Yet since writing ones autobiography is a golden opportunity for self- knowledge what did the autobiographer achieve for herself? Does it full her de- voir de mmoire, her early promise to herself? If we take the issue of national identity, in the end it seems that Amlies search is diluted into nothingness by ironic generalizations: il est exact que nous sommes tous chinois. A divers degrs, certes: chacun a son taux de Chine en soi, comme chacun a son taux de cholestrol dans le sang ou de narcissisme dans le regard SA The same goes for the other main themes: all babies are metaphysical beings, who later, as young children, turn into quasi-barbarians, and later again, as full-blown sadistic adults.

Love is an exer- cise in sado-masochism. Nothombs satire of a Japanese company obscures, rather than enlightens, the stereotypical, supposedly insurmountable exotica of far- eastern cultures. Yet, because of her ironic stance and exaggerations, Nothomb cant be pinned down to any theory of national, gendered or spiritual identity, and therefore doesnt risk alienating any reader, or being xed in lifeless, ossied self-portraits.

However, it seems that she doesnt take the risk of self-revelation ei- ther. The narrators position at once inside and outside the autobiographical pact allows her to remain uncommitted to truthtelling, even to herself. She stays in that very nothingnessin the last words of Mtaphysique des tubes, entre deux eaux MT she facetiously praised. From there she entertains us with her grief in coming to terms with her lost metaphysical self, lost national identity, and lost illu- sions concerning love.

For a full discussion on memory, memories and reconstruction, see Julien Rouart, Souvenirs et fantasmes: de la remmoration aux constructions, Revue franaise de psy- chanalyse 2nd March , Mtaphysique des tubes Paris: Albin Michel, , p. Subsequent references in the text will appear as MT followed by the page number.

Cosmtique de lennemi Paris: Albin Michel, Subsequent references in the text will appear as CE followed by the page number. Stupeur et tremblements Paris: Albin Michel, Subsequent references in the text will appear as ST followed by the page number. Marguerite Yourcenar, Quoi? Lternit Paris: Gallimard, Biblos, , p. Thierry Gandillot, N, carpes et chocolat, LExpress, available online at www.

For a psychoanalytical critique, see Anon. Tombeur, op. It should also be noted that Prtextat Tach said he died aged seven- teen, Hygine de lassassin Paris: Albin Michel, , p. Jacques Lecarme, La lgitimation du genre, in Le rcit denfance en question, Cahiers de smiotique textuelle, 12, Universit Paris 10 , p. Mounir Laouyen, Lautoction: une rception problmatique, paper delivered at the Colloque Fabula, available online at Fabula.

Frdric Grolleau, La vie en tube, Paru. The blending of the two viewpoints, that of the adult narrator and the young protago- nist is not seen as a quality by Ook Chung: les deux registres narratifs ont tendance se tlescoper et confondre le lecteur, in Une enfance pique, Libert 34, 3, Juin , footnote 3, p.

Quoted from an interview with Evelyne Wilwerth, Amlie Nothomb: sous le signe du cinglant, La Revue gnrale, 67 , p. Marthe Robert, Roman des origines et origines du roman Paris: Grasset, , p. A critic suggested that the two nannies represent Mlanie Kleins concept of good and bad mothers, leaving the biological mother hors jeu, op. For a psychoanalytical analysis, see, Anon.

See Picard, op. Hygine de lassassin Paris: Albin Michel, Annick Cojean, La rage des chiennes de garde , Le Monde, 12 fvrier , p. Andr Gide, Si le grain ne meurt Paris: Gallimard, , p. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, Entretien au centre culturel de La Botanique, 3 avril , quoted in Hubert, op. As was suggested by an anonymous reader to Alapage.

As the quote heading this article implies. Quel malheur que dtre femme! Et pourtant le pire malheur quand on est femme est au fond de ne pas comprendre que cen est un. Putatively ction, Hygine de lassas- sin is highly suggestive of autobiography. Nothomb, who echoes Flaubert when she claims Tach, cest moi, speaks through this eighty-year-old man to express dissatisfaction with, or rather outright disgust of, the feminine condition.

The an- swer? Il faut supprimer les femmes. Women are trapped in an existence which lies somewhere between life and death, a non-life. Once a little girl reaches puberty, Tach explains, her life has ended, and she enters into this non-life. Tach, with his cousin Lopoldine, at- tempts to stave off the onset of puberty through a particularly stringent regime of self-starvation in Hygine de lassassin, in the belief that the answer to the femi- nine condition is to avoid adulthood and puberty, to remain pre-adolescents.

They are united in an unspoken pact, and wander the grounds of the Chateau of Saint-Sulpice, isolated as if in a Garden of Eden. Tach fails in his attempt to stay trapped in childhood, as Lopoldine does fatefully one day menstruate: she is strangled and her murder is re-narrated by her assassin-cousin as a drowning, a Hugo echo in her name, but more so a lost Ophelia, faithful to this literary icon. This adolescent Lopoldine-Ophelia of Nothombs rst novel is recuperated and saved in her third autobiographical novel of , Mtaphysique des tubes, in which young Amlie foresees being chased from her own Garden of Eden in Japan, and demonstrates that the awareness of gender difference and its social consequences comes at a much earlier age.

What does it mean to write as a woman? For Amlie Nothomb, it means to write, in part, about the feminine condition. This is consonant with the general scholarly conviction that gender, or the fact of femininity, is a shaping force in au- tobiographies written by women. Nancy K. Miller states in Writing Fictions: Womens Autobiography in France that the subject of womens autobiography is a self both occulted and overexposed by the fact of her femininity as a social reality.

Where bod- ily experience puberty, sexuality, or pregnancy is invoked, it is often in ambiva- lent or negative terms. Such ambivalence characterizes Amlie Nothombs works, where the body and the social construct of femininity are problematized. Feminist theory tends to divide into the camps of essentialism assigning inher- ent feminine traits to women and constructivism considering women as con- structed entities, in the manner of Simone de Beauvoir that one is not born a woman, but becomes one , although they are united in one respect: the problem of gender.

The works of Amlie Nothomb deconstruct the notion of the feminine by utilizing both essentialist and constructivist discourses. The author insists that she is a humanitarian, not a feminist, in an effort perhaps to avoid this dichotomy,6 and to deconstruct the social construct of gender. Nonetheless, as a woman writer, her focus is clearly on the formation of feminine identity. Susan Stanford Fried- man claims that a [. He can think of himself as an individual.

Women, reminded at every turn in the great cultural hall of mirrors of their sex [. Throughout Nothombs texts, the role of women in a patriarchal society is re-evaluated and questioned. In Stupeur et tremblements, the Japanese woman is trapped within her own body.

Women are presented as victims in Hygine de lassassin, victimes particulirement pernicieuses puisquelles sont avant tout victimes delles-mmes, des autres femmes HA Childhood is presented as a problematic utopia, an escape from this victimiza- tion. In Le Sabotage amoureux, Nothomb denes her child self as a little girl, a third sex, separate from the other two sexes male and female , and maintains a superior- ity of childhood for les petites lles, little girls.

I use the term third sex, but No- thomb herself prefers a beyond sex, or au-del des sexes, presumably to decon- struct gender, rather than add a third element to an already complex binary. Children, and more importantly for this thesis, little girls, are referred to with a neuter article, rather than a masculine or feminine article: das Kind and das Mdchen.

Between the ages of two and a half and three years, young Amlie rst becomes aware of the consequences of gender difference and is revolted by, and revolts against, the fem- inine condition. If her earliest childhood constituted a utopian space, au-del des sexes, the novel concludes with the sullen realization of normative feminine dif- ference. The so-called autobiographical account of Nothombs life from age zero to age three is in fact a metaphor for puberty and the trauma of the transformation of the body of a seemingly androgynous little girl.

Mtaphysique des tubes presents a world where toddlers are demi-Gods and a baby girl is reassured of her place at the centre of the universe. Young Amlie has the impression of controlling her universe and the people surrounding her: with a word, she can give life and meaning, simply by naming an object.

Her divine power brings her the adoration of her Japanese nanny and assures her of her su- preme power. The beginning of the novel suggests a complete identity, such as that found in the womb, before the division of self and the creation of ego,12 or for Nothomb, the onset of puberty. It is a Biblical wholeness, Oneness, possessed by God, ruler of the Christian world.

Belgian francophone library; v.

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