Amélie Nothomb has just published “Psychopompe”, a rare evocation on a personal drama, she is usually quite discreet about her intimate life.
Copyright Jean-Baptiste Mondino
She publishes a novel every year
Psychopompe : adjective and masculine noun. Conductor of the souls of the dead. In Antiquity, this role was played mainly by Hermes, Charon and Orpheus. This is the definition of “psychopompe”, this term chosen by Amélie Nothomb as the title of her 31st novel. The childhood of Amélie Nothomb, born into an aristocratic Belgian family, was punctuated by moves, according to the assignments of her ambassador father: Osaka, Beijing, New York, then South-East Asia. In 1992, Albin Michel published his first novel, “Hygiène de l’assassin“, which enjoyed enormous success; since then she has published a book with this publisher each year and divides her time between Paris and Brussels.
A very autobiographical book
So, like every year for 31 years, Amélie Nothomb has just published a new novel, “Psychopompe”, for the literary season. This very autobiographical book allows us to know more about what led him to writing. In this very personal book, she confides her love of birds, and the way in which this love allowed her to go through the trials of life. In her latest work, “Psychopompe”, the writer Amélie Nothomb has already addressed this drama, a rare evocation on the part of the novelist, usually quite discreet about her intimate life. In the 1970s, off a beach in Bangladesh where she had gone swimming on vacation, she was the victim of an attack: “I felt countless hands pulling me under the water and doing everything to me. what we can do”.
“it acted like a kind of chemotherapy”
The author deplored the shock suffered during her attack, the violence of the events: “I really believed that I was going to die, but what prevailed was terror, it took me a century to scream, my mother came running, which made them flee.” Six months after the tragedy, the young Amélie Nothomb descended into anorexia, a dangerous and sneaky illness which would follow her for part of her adolescence. Behind this pathology, the author sees a form of resilience: “It’s terrible to say, but in my case it acted like a kind of chemotherapy for what had happened to me. I almost lost my skin. (…). It saved me from that, I was no longer that person to whom this had happened, I killed her within myself.”
The writer opens up as she rarely does
Psychopompe first traces the cosmopolitan childhood of this diplomat’s daughter. We feel the story of the episode coming there. It is no longer through hunger and food that it is approached, but through that of a passion for birds, born at 11 years old and which has never waned. “I think the bird came just in time and it was a prophecy. That the motif of the bird had predicted that I would have to pass through the Underworld and then come back one day,” confides the writer. Subsequently, the novelist was able to find herself writing several successful books, “giving birth” in her words, to works inspired by a deep affection for literature and human entrenchments. In them, Amélie Nothomb sees psychopomp creatures, winged Charons, responsible for escorting the souls of the deceased. She is in a land of knowledge, she who feels dead from the inside. Throughout this “avian autobiography”, the writer opens up as she rarely does.