Friday, 3 September 2010

The Character of Rain

by Amélie Nothomb

How does it feel, to be born a god; to acquire the memory at two and a half years; to fall from grace at the age of three? Read The Character of Rain and you’ll know. This is a prequel to Loving Sabotage, every bit as brilliant and enjoyable as the latter. Kudos to the translator, Timothy Bent. Isn’t it great that he gave the English version its own beautiful name rather than literal translation of the French title, Métaphysique des tubes? The character in question, , appears at the beginning of each chapter. (In Japanese, is pronounced ame — the only reference in the book to the heroine’s name, which is, of course, Amélie.)

There has always been a large group of imbeciles opposing sensuality to intelligence. They inhabit a vicious circle: they deny themselves any extravagance to exalt their intellect, and the result is they diminish their intellect. They grow more and more dull, which leads them to become more and more convinced they are brilliant. There is no greater purpose for stupidity than to believe itself brilliant.
There are people who boast of having done without some luxury for twenty-five years. There are fools who glory in never having listened to music, or read a book, or seen a movie. There are those who seek praise for their chastity. Such vanity is necessary. It provides them with the only pleasure they get from being alive.

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