Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: Biographie de la faim by Amelie Nothomb

Can I just say, isn't that a beautiful cover?!  It's partly what drew me to this book.  Well, actually, it is what drew me to it!  I bought it and had it shipped from France without even knowing what the book was about.  I'm SO glad I took the chance!

Biographie de la faim (literally meaning Biographie of Hunger, but translated as The Life of Hunger) was my first experience with Amelie Nothomb.  A Belgian author who spent her childhood abroad in places like Japan, China, New York City, and Bangladesh, Nothomb is a "cult favorite" and has fans pretty much world wide.  Her parents were Belgian diplomats, which explains her childhood spent living in different cities.  Biographie de la faim is an autobiographical novel detailing her childhood living in hunger.  This isn't necessarily a hunger for food, but a hunger for more.  Nothomb was born in Japan, and after leaving it, has a hunger for the place she thinks of as her home.  The book chronicals her childhood and the things she longed for and had a hunger for.

I cannot really explain just how much I love this book.  It is filled with dark humor.  I really loved Nothomb's sections about her early childhood.  The portrait she paints of herself as a little girl is both priceless and hilarious.  There are also parts that are a bit more intense and serious, like the eating disorder she had as a teenager. 

I was sucked in right from the beginning of this book.  Nothomb begins this novel talking about hunger.  She talks about two different groups of people: those who never have to worry about food and hunger, and those who do.  She uses a tropical island plentiful with food and plants as an example of a group of people who never have to worry or even work for their food.  It was very interesting to read, and a great introduction to the rest of the novel about her own hunger. 

Nothomb talks about her own hunger throughout the book.  She says on page 19, "La faim, c'est moi."  Basically "I am hunger" or "hunger is me."  She says she has more than just a hunger for food, but a hunger for more.  And I especially appreciated the parts where she mentioned Arthur Rimbaud, my favorite French poet :) 

Sorry if this review is really repetitve.  I just adored this book so much that it's hard to write a really in depth review of it.  I'm so glad I have another Nothomb novel waiting for me on my shelf.  I have high expectations for it, and if it's anything like Biographie de la faim, I know I won't be disappointed.

If you read in French, read this!  If you read in English, you can find it on Amazon by searching "Amelie Nothomb Life of Hunger".  Have you read anything by Nothomb?

For more information on the author and this book, here is a fascinating article/interview I recently found.

Title: Biographie de la faim (The Life of Hunger)
Author: Amelie Nothomb
Date of Publication: 2004 (English I think is 2007)
Number of Pages: 190
Genre: Autobiographical Novel
Source: Personal Copy ordered from


  1. This definitely seems like something I'd like to read. I'll have to add it to my neverending list ;)

  2. I am a big fan of Amélie Nothomb, with a special interest for her autobiographical novels. Biographie de la faim is really witty and full of humor.