Hunger for Life

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Oh, you storyteller, an adult might reprove a child, meaning that she is a good liar. These artful tales succeed not just as entrancingly bleak comedy but as experiments in ways of making up first-person narratives.

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Nothomb's originality lies in her invention of a childish voice that is by turns surreal, egotistical and profoundly intellectual. She gives her little girls the seriousness, self-absorption and self-importance of grown-ups. Simultaneously her child narrators display the would-be omnipotence of tiny babies, determined to survive, screeching for what they need. Nothomb's tone recalls Colette's, in particular the Claudine novels' examination of small girls' ruthlessness, savage innocence and contempt for adults' nonsense. The Life of Hunger, elegantly translated by Shaun Whiteside, tracks Nothomb's peripatetic early years.

Her diplomat father snatched up his family with each new post and relocated them, plunging them into bewildering new worlds.


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New schools, new nannies, new streets to navigate, plus the loss of all that preceded them. How can a child connect up these traumatic departures and arrivals? Perhaps Nothomb's stream of novels functions to invent a sense of continuity, an authorial self able to imagine joining up all the new countries and new moments of being. In her previous novel to be translated into English, Loving Sabotage, Nothomb described life in the diplomatic compound in Beijing as a form of internment, in which the small children mirrored and acted out all the cruelties, conflicts and armed struggles of the world beyond the fence.

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In this new book, Nothomb records life in Japan, North America, India and Bangladesh, skipping over her Chinese experience in a few brusque paragraphs. The four-year-old living in opulent comfort in Tokyo knows she is a divinity: her sister adores her, and her Japanese governess deluges her with love, never presumes to scold her and indeed kisses the ground when the family leaves. Underneath this brave assertion, however, there perhaps lurks confusion and loneliness.

Her father is a sweet-toothed compulsive eater; her mother says the child is exactly like her father and accordingly forbids sweets. Nothomb gets into a muddle: does her mother mean she is her father? Children, after all, commonly do not understand metaphor, hence their intense relationship with the universe: I am it, it and I are one. Nothomb discovers mysticism through her obsession with sugar, which seems to symbolise lost love.

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Desperate for sweet foods, she produces theology: "If God ate, he would eat sugar Available formats Paperback. Reviews write a review. A exceptional read, I was really down in my life, I was needing inspiration, and this book came along at the right time and really motivated me, and I could relate to the authors experience and I thank this book and the author for putting me in a better place. The chapter you deserve everything really talked to me and turned my negative thinking into positive thoughts, and yes I do deserve everything and I can work on my self-esteem I feel so much better to thank you!

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A totally fantastic read, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to improve their self-confidence awareness, the book is uplifting and helped me bring positivity back into my life, as I could relate to the author and her experience and how to overcome difficulties in your life. Absolutely love this book, so happy I bought it. This is a must read! Thank you.

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