Interview by Alexandre Arditti – Photos : Olivier Dion / J.B. Mondino
We no longer present her, and yet Amélie Nothomb, an exceptionally successful novelist, is a secretive woman, who does little … a childhood in Japan, brilliant studies of letters, then writing, as obvious. and a raw talent, which like good wine, improves over the years. his signature is first of all a style, recognizable among a thousand. a limpid pen, sharp, and endowed with a jubilant humor. For Dream Travel & Hotels, this great traveler who has lived in many countries tells us about her relationship to travel, Japan, Belgium, countries that she still dreams of discovering… “talent is a a question of love, ”said Romy Schneider. Amélie Nothomb certainly lacks neither.
You grew up in Japan, which you left when you were five. How do you relate to this country today?
Japan is still my favorite country, my country of heart … But the paradox is that it is also for this reason that I go there as little as possible … Why? Because going back there supposes that I will have to leave it again. A new time. And leaving Japan is such a trauma for me, it implies such distress, such a resumption of my founding emotional shock experienced at the age of 5, that for this reason, if I can avoid Japan today, I try to avoid.
When was the last time you went back?
It was in 2012 for a very important documentary film for me (A life between two waters by Laureline Amanieux and Luca Chiari, Editor’s note), where we filmed my reunion with my “Japanese mother”. This episode assumed that I would have to leave her again. I still don’t know how I survived this ordeal! The paradoxical consequence of my story is that I no longer go to Japan. I love this country too much, it is too deep a love. Today I no longer have the strength, nor the strength to tell myself that once there, I will have to leave him again.
Your famous novel Stupeur & Tremblements recounted the vagaries of your first professional Japanese experience. How was the book received there in 1999?
First of all, it should be noted that it was published there, which is already remarkable. If I had written such a book on China, you can be sure it would never have been released in bookstores … Let’s say Stupeur et Tremblements received a mixed reception. On the one hand, the Japanese employers cried foul and lies, but at the same time, there were many small Japanese employees who voted for the book, which made me very happy.
Where do you like to travel now?
Some time ago, I discovered the Amazon, and the Amazon rainforest has become my new passion! I love this part of the world, where you can really find yourself far from any form of civilization. Suddenly, we are immersed in nature, it’s a bit of a total return to the wild life … When I get there, I stay with the Indians and it is an opportunity to recharge my batteries for two weeks. I chose the Peruvian side over the Brazilian side, because of Brazil’s policy on deforestation, which I disapprove of. There is exceptional strength there, but obviously the comfort is more than basic, and there is no electricity. It’s a very long trip, the last part of which is done by canoe, so I can’t go very often. It’s really a very powerful experience. For the moment, it is still difficult for me to write about it but it will surely come … The only negative point is the total absence of champagne! (laughs)
What other countries do you dream of discovering?
I like to think that I am in the period of my life which precedes my discovery of Iceland, one of my greatest earthly dreams… And since it is a dream that I have not yet realized, I ‘likes to think that I am still’ before Iceland ‘. There too, priority is given to nature, to the great outdoors … But beyond this natural and authentic side, I also really appreciate big cities. In reality, I can adapt to any sophistication without a problem, but it turns out that it’s something I’ve already experienced more than the “Amazonian terra incognita”. And at this point in my life, I’m more drawn to what I don’t know yet…
You who have lived in many countries, what is your relationship with Belgium today?
I know that a lot of people sometimes think of me French, yet I very often remember that I am Belgian! It took me a long time to understand why I was Belgian, and also to understand Belgium … But now it’s done, I have no doubts: I am indeed Belgian! (laughs) This so elusive, so fuzzy, so problematic identity that characterizes my country and which is both its tragedy and its political richness, well, in the end, I find my way there! Because I too, when you think about it, my identity is rather vague, paradoxical, elusive … in short, Belgium is me! When we talk about the Belgian identity, it is sometimes difficult to find the words to define it. We can imagine what that could mean, but it is still quite indefinable. Unlike the French identity, which is very marked, and on which one could write endless treatises, the Belgian identity is rather complex, intangible and extremely paradoxical. And I find myself in there!
Is the gap between Walloons and Flemings as big as they say?
It’s real, it’s true, it’s an important reality. Important, but I claim it is not unsurpassed. Personally, I am one of those who think that Belgium will continue to exist as such, because the political tragedy which would result from its explosion would be so mad and so sad, that common sense will prevail. The country will endure, with all its contradictions and tensions that should not be minimized, but which are also its wealth. The divide between the two communities is certainly not an invention. This is a real danger, but I want to believe, that this danger will always be avoided.
You are a great lover of champagne. Which grand cru would you choose if we had to sip a cup together to close this interview?
When it comes to champagne, it depends of course on the days, the meetings, and also the hours of the day … There is of course more than one champagne that deserves to be drunk. With you, I would gladly taste the Brut de Philipponnat. And believe me, that’s a big compliment to you! (laughs)