Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Book of Proper Names

by Amélie Nothomb

If I didn’t spell it out before, I think now it’s about time: I can’t stand classical ballet. Like foot binding, it is a form of violence against women disguised as “culture”. The difference is, foot binding is prohibited now, while the ballet is alive and, dare I say, kicking.

Reading The Book of Proper Names did not improve my opinion of this perverted art form. The novel, just like Loving Sabotage, is too outrageous to be untruthful. What I did not quite expect was that it turned out to be a biography of a real person, French chanteuse RoBERT. (Of course, the French title Robert des noms propres is a wordplay.) Once again Nothomb takes us on a seriously head-spinning ride through one girl’s childhood. And if it ends a bit too abruptly, well, this is all part of the game.

Being ten years old is the best thing that can happen to a human being. Especially a little dancer with all her art at her disposal.

Ten is the most sunlit point in childhood. There is no sign of adolescence visible on the horizon: nothing but mature childhood, already rich in long experience, without that feeling of loss that assaults you from the first hints of puberty onwards. At ten, you aren’t necessarily happy, but you are certainly alive, more alive than anyone else.

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