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Синята брада
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978-619-150-471-8
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Rating (5)
4.2 5
Format
Paperback
Size
13/20
Weight
105 gr.
Pages
128
Published
05 January 2015

Blue Beard

Amélie Nothomb’s version is a fine and dazzlingly exciting contribution to the legend.

This short and fast-paced novel casts the protagonists in a contemporary Parisian setting. Saturnine, the heroine, takes the RER local train to get to Bluebeard’s mansion, where a suspiciously cheap rental awaits her. Nothomb is adept at splicing the real world with the fairytale so that the reader has no difficulty suspending disbelief. 

Don Elemirio Nibal y Milcar, the lavishly named Bluebeard figure, is a Spanish nobleman who lives at the heart of Paris. Unlike the traveling businessman in Perrault’s original folktale, Don Elemirio never leaves his abode: it is so vast that it feels empty even when he’s at home.

During her first encounter with him, Saturnine watches the noble Spaniard delicately pile eggs into a pyramid shape before treating her to an omelet whose perfection is “intimidating.” Don Elemirio turns out to be perfectly obnoxious in almost every possible way, and yet his otherworldly skill in cookery and dress designing, as well as his formidable generosity, wealth, and intelligence, finally begin to work their magic on the very wary, tough-minded heroine. 

Don Elemirio makes no bones about having killed his former wives, arguing that love requires trust. Deeply religious, he compares his wife-trap to the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. His forbidden room is an unlocked photographer’s darkroom with a special mechanism that is triggered upon entry.

As always, Nothomb’s learning is ostentatious yet winsome and edifying at the same time; her dialogue is quaintly old-fashioned in an irresistibly flamboyant way that suits her often monstrously aristocratic characters. While her retelling of the tale has strong feminist overtones (which, one might add, even Perrault’s tale already possessed), the heroine’s attitude to the monstrous patriarch becomes increasingly ambiguous as the novel comes to its close. As in most of Nothomb’s previous works, sympathy for and attraction to the monstrous is a powerful narrative force.

Erik Martiny, Paris Sciences et Lettres

About the Author
Amélie  Nothomb

Amélie Nothomb (born August 13, 1967) is a Belgian writer. She was born in Kobe, Japan to Belgian diplomats, before living in China, New York, Bangladesh, Burma, and Laos. Her first novel, "L'higiene de l'assassin" ("Hygiene and the Assassin") was published in 1992. Since then, she has published approximately one novel per year with a.o. "Les Catilinaires" (1995), "Fear and Trembling" (1999) and "Métaphysique des tubes" (published in English as "The Character of Rain") (2000).

She was awarded numerous prizes, including the Prix du Roman de L'Academie Francaise; the Prix Rene-Fallet; and twice the Prix Alain Fournier.

While in Japan, she attended a local school and learned Japanese. When she was five the family moved to China. "Quitter le Japon fut pour moi un arrachement" ("leaving Japan was a painful experience for me") she writes in "Fear and Trembling". Nothomb moved very often, before discovering Europe, more precisely, Brussels, where she reportedly felt as much a stranger as everywhere else. She studied philology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. After facing troubles in her family, she returned to Tokyo to work in a big Japanese company. Her experience of this time is told in "Fear and Trembling".

Amelie Notomb has already created an annual tradition in the literary world – a much anticipated publishing of a new novel, each year at the same time; this said, it is more than obvious that she has now attracted everybody’s attention. From the pompous premieres of her works in the bookstores of Champs-Elyssees to the pandemic cultural discussions surrounding her work, Amelie Notomb is defined as a contemporary legend. Her complex work of art intertwines cultural analysis, social subjects, and subtle style of writing that mixes together the sophistication of the Far East Asia with the rational sobriety of the Western civilization. A brilliant marketing strategist, an enigmatic figure and a very disciplined aesthete, Amelie Notomb has refocused the public attention towards the beauty of the French-language literature.

She now lives and writes in Brussels. She says she writes three novels a year, publishing only one.

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