The Write Stuff

PARIS — Amélie Nothomb, one of France’s most prolific and acclaimed young novelists, just might be its quirkiest, too. After all, she read the entire dictionary when she was 13 and then was tempted to write her own version. Her novel...

She returned to Belgium after one year back in Japan, but her experiences there inspired her to write yet another autobiographical novel, "Fear of Trembling." The book concerns a young Western woman’s humiliations working at a Tokyo firm: hers, of course. An international bestseller, the book won her the Grand Prix of the Académie Française and was recently adapted for the screen by French director Alain Corneau.

So antifashion are Nothomb’s subjects that obesity is a running theme in her books. The author says she is a fan of sumo wrestling and admits to being obsessed by obese people. She volunteers that her fascination seems to be connected to the fact that she suffered from severe anorexia as an adolescent.

Meanwhile, Nothomb is practically athletic as an author. Last month, as she has every year for the past 11 years, she released her new book that recalls one of her early literary impulses. It’s titled "Robert des Noms Propres" after the French equivalent of Webster’s. But "it is nothing like a dictionary," she says. It tells the story of an exceptional child whose life is full of upheaval. Its publication has turned out to be the biggest talking point of the French literary rentrée.

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