All things nice

<strong>The Life of Hunger

</strong>Amélie Nothomb <em>Faber & Faber, 220pp, £9.99</em>

ISBN 057

When Amélie Nothomb publishes a book (which she does every year), her adoring fans are sure to make it a French bestseller. Her fictions/autobiographies are made in her own image: coquettish and solipsistic, they are bite-sized but hard to swallow.

According to Nothomb, while "Nietzsche speaks of superman", she is "Superfaim", superhunger, a "miracle of desire" which dances a pas de deux with creative genius. The Life of Hunger traces her superhunger (and her creative genius) from infancy to puberty.

She was a diplobrat, and her deadpan epiphanies on the metaphysics of delectability (aged three, she conjectures that "God isn't chocolate, he's the encounter between chocolate and a palate capable of appreciating it") begin in Japan. Her superhunger survives "the nausea of aimless crimes" in Maoist China, becomes "delirium" in New York and anorexia in Bangladesh.

While her three years of starvation occupy only a few pages, her reimagination of her infancy is spiked with an adolescent's bitter nostalgia. But these bruises are darker than the growing pains of ordinary self-consciousness. "Delectable" sweets and novels that are "confectioneries of the mind" are a paradise that she constructs to feed her awful "hunger for hunger".

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