Winner of the Renaudot Prize in 2021 for First Blood, a novel in which she told the story of her father, Belgian diplomat, the talented Amélie Nothomb tells the story of a close love between two sisters in her 31th novel, Le livre des sisters. Difficult parent-child relationships, relationships between sisters, eating disorders, and above all, the enormous impact of the words we speak are at the heart of this story that can be read in one go. Because words, as she writes, can hurt or heal since they have “the power we give them”.
Nora and Florent, desperate lovers, live a passion that lasts and lasts… to the detriment of everything else. When their daughter, Tristane, comes into the world, they love her… but continue to prioritize their relationship.
Tristane, very small and already losing her bearings, must learn to live and find her place within this family which does not make much of her existence. She must learn, very young, that you should not disturb.
In an email interview, just before leaving on vacation for Belgium, Amélie Nothomb explains what was the trigger for the writing the novel.
“A great friend told me about her childhood with parents who loved each other too much to notice her. I thought that what could have saved her would have been to experience a close love with her sister. This friend had no sister. I imagined she had one.”
In the novel, Amélie Nothomb gave Nora and Florent a second daughter and therefore a little sister to Tristane: the pretty Laetitia. From birth, Tristane was bewitched.
“When Tristane arrived in the hospital room, she knew she was living the key moment of her life. The sensation of the sacred was so strong that she had trouble breathing,” she wrote in The Sisters' Book.
Amélie Nothomb specifies, in the interview , that she knows this fusional love between two sisters since she lives it intensely with her sister, Juliette, also a writer.
In the novel, Nora and Florent live a devouring passion that is far from s go out, despite the years. The others see it well, but do not worry about it. “Passion only lasts for a short time…”, they say.
What does the writer think? “Love can last forever. However, I disapprove of the fortress love of Nora and Florent. Especially when you have children.”
Even at a very young age, the little girl must “invent her role”, grow up without disturbing her, organize herself on her own with her pain in life. < /p>
“That's what happened to that friend I was talking about earlier,” adds Amélie Nothomb.
The power of words
It is often said that words hurt. Amélie Nothomb describes the construction of a person who bears a deep wound and who, at the same time, has an extremely lucid understanding of the world around him.
“I imagined a child who , through his extreme pain, was aware of the power of language and sought to do better than his parents,” explains the author.
A gifted student, Tristane is nevertheless treated as a “dull little girl” – a heartbreaking qualifier. Were Amélie Nothomb given such qualifiers when she was young?
“Yes. When I was 18, my dad said to me, “You look like old Marguerite Yourcenar.” It hurt me. Many years later, I decided to see it as a compliment. Words have the power we give them!”
♦ Amélie Nothomb is publishing her 31th novel this year.< /strong>
♦ His previous novel, Premier sang, won the Renaudot Prize in 2021.
♦ In The Book of Sisters, it is about a group of music… Amélie Nothomb would have loved to be part of a band. “I would be a bass player in a metal band, it would be really heartbreaking!”, she says on this subject.
♦ She was planning to spend her summer vacation in Belgium to rest .
♦ With her sister, Juliette, she will come to the Salon international du livre de Québec next spring.