Amélie Nothomb, the most Japanese Belgian writer
Born Fabienne Claire Nothomb on 9 July in Etterbeek, Amélie Nothomb is an internationally acclaimed author who, since the global success of Hygiene and the Assassin, has remained an important figure in contemporary Francophone literature.
After spending an academic year studying law, Amélie graduated in Romance Philology from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and once considered a career in teaching. However, she began her writing career, publishing approximately one novel a year with the publishers éditions Albin Michel. A prolific author, her works have been translated into 37 languages worldwide.
Her novels, often described as intertextuality between medieval Japanese literature and western literature, reflect themes on the meaning of life and the human condition; on the writing profession or love suicide. The writer often depicts herself in her work through a namesake presented as autobiographical in the novels The Character of Rain, Loving Sabotage and The Life of Hunger as well as in Tokyo Fiancée; they describe the childhood of a diplomat's daughter, punctuated by constant moves as the father's assignments change.
Indeed, her father left Japan for Beijing in 1972 when she was six years old. She uses these events as inspiration in her novels and presents the uprootedness of the family's successive moves.
Amélie Nothomb has also written the lyrics for songs for Juliette Gréco, Le Pont de Juliette (The Juliet Bridge) and for the singer Robert, L’appel de la succube (2000) (The Call of Succubus) and A la guerre comme à la guerre (2002) (You have to make the best of things), among others. Her books have been adapted for cinema (Hygiène de l’assassin (1999); Stupeur et tremblements (2003); Tokyo Fiancée (2014)) and theatre.
Amélie Nothomb has received many literary awards including the Prix René-Fallet in 1993 for Hygiène de l’assassin and the Prix Alain-Fournier in the same year. She won the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française in 1999 for Fear and Trembling; the Prix de Flore in 2007 for Tokyo Fiancée and the Jean Giono Grand Prize in 2008, awarding "the career of a French-language author who has defended the novel as an art form". In 2015, she was selected as a member of the Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique, succeeding Simon Leys. In 2015, she was made a baroness by King Philippe.
© Photo: Stéphanie Haskell