(Original title: Métaphysique des tubes)
Translated from the French by Timothy Bent
St. Martin's Griffin, trade pb, 132 p.
The Japanese believe that until the age of three children, whether Japanese or not, are gods, each one an okosama, or “lord child.” On their third birthday they fall from grace and join the rest of the human race. In The Character of Rain, we learn that divinity is a difficult thing from which to recover.Amélie Nothomb always seems to have a unique, quirky, often self-indulgent view of life, and this book is no different. The Character of Rain portrays a rather precocious child, Amélie, during the first years of her life in Japan. Nothomb was born in Kobe, Japan while her father, a Belgian diplomat, was stationed there. She is well known for writing novels based on her own experiences, “fictionalised memoirs” as I’ve seen them called, and must be taken with a grain of salt. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief and accept the exaggeration though, this is an amusing, even touching, story of childhood.
The fact that the story takes place in Japan, and that I could relate to some of her impressions of the Japanese, no doubt added to my enjoyment. I do wonder if I’d have enjoyed this book as much if I weren’t familiar with the culture, and perhaps understandably, it’s her stories about her experiences in Japan that I am most interested in reading about. I wouldn’t rule out reading some more of her other books as well though at some point. There’s something about her style that can either grate or entertain depending on my mood, and that, itself, makes me curious to read more. A slim, quick, and engaging read, it was another good choice for the read-a-thon last month.
Memory has the same power as writing. When you see the word “cat” in a book, it looks very different from the neighbor’s cat with the beautiful eyes. Yet to see the word written gives you a pleasure like the one the cat gave you when its golden gaze was fixed upon you.First sentence: In the beginning was nothing, and this nothing had neither form nor substance – it was nothing other than what it was.
My Rating: 3.5/5
(#25 for 2009, Orbis Terrarum Challenge, Lost in Translation Challenge)
Also reviewed at:
Out of the Blue
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