“Food had become a disturbing strangeness”

“Food had become a disturbing strangeness”
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 12: Amelie Nothomb attends

Amélie Nothomb talks about her fight against anorexia: “Food had become a disturbing strangeness” (Photo by Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

She is undoubtedly one of the most famous French-speaking writers. Amélie Nothomb is back with a new novel, “The Book of Sisters”, in which she tells the story, among other things, of a character who suffers from anorexia… like her in the past. Today, at 56, Amélie Nothomb looks back on this painful period that occurred after a particularly traumatic event at the dawn of her adolescence.

“Metaphysics of tubes”, “Neither Eve nor Adam”, “Cosmetics of the enemy”, “Robert of proper names”, “Epicene first names”, and so many others: in several years, Amelie Nothomb had many successes. If his books are snapped up in bookstores, his intriguing and mysterious personality crystallizes many questions. She who often seems to float above her time, while grasping each of the issues surrounding her. Because beyond the writer, Amélie Nothomb is a woman with a painful past, which she uses to write the ills of her fictional characters. As in his last work, “The Book of Sisters”, where it is particularly a question ofanorexia. A subject she knows well.

Video. Amélie Nothomb very moved by discovering images of her father in En Aparté

“I would have given anything for someone to come and tell me that we can get out of this”

In an interview recently granted to Paris Match, Amélie Nothomb thus returned to this disease from which she suffered when she was younger: “During my adolescence, the food had become a disturbing strangeness” she lets go. And if she chose to talk about it, it’s because Amélie Nothomb is fully aware of the extent of the suffering of people who, like her, have gone through this ordeal. “Today, I have more and more readers – and even readers – who are anorexic, who write to me asking for advice” assures the writer, while bringing wise words to her aficionados: “I would like help them, but I don’t have the keys. The only message of hope I can send them: I am proof that anorexia can be cured 100%. When I was 15, I would have given anything for someone to come and tell me that we can get out of this.”

This is not the first time that Amélie Nothomb has confided in the anorexia she suffered from when she was younger. A disease notably triggered following an oh so painful and traumatic event. In 2017, it was in an interview with Le Monde that she finally revealed the truth about what had until then been an “unspeakable secret”: rape which she suffered as a child, when she lived abroad with her family. “A key event that I recount briefly in ‘Biography of Hunger’, she explained then. A swim in the sea, in Bangladesh, where my family then lived, and during which I was sexually assaulted by four men. I don’t want to dwell on this event that I had to overcome. Let’s just say that the year I turned 12 was pivotal. Suddenly, I discovered puberty, violence, self-loathing, hatred, tiredness and cold. So many sensations that were completely unknown to me at the time.

If Amélie Nothomb took time to talk about this rape, it was for fear of not receiving the necessary support, as was the case at the time of the events: “God knows if I spoke little about this episode, but among the older people, the reactions have been despicable. There is always the idea that the victim is in fact guilty. It is not for nothing that I experienced this story so badly. I was sent back a guilt that I I ended up integrating” she confided, still tested, in the columns of the World. A description that fits perfectly with what unfortunately many women still feel fear and guilt when sharing their story.

“I would be a much better person if I hadn’t been anorexic”

Still, from this rape, the young Amélie Nothomb has kept heavy consequences. Difficult to build oneself at the dawn of one’s adolescence after having lived through such a traumatic event. Suddenly, his relationship to the body was no longer the same. “The voices that spoke to me in my head were much less pleasant. I suddenly felt like I was living with an enemy within. A kind of anxiety-generating monster. My life has completely changed. Every morning I have to fight. And every morning, everything has to start over. Because the dark forces are still in me“she confided in the columns of the World.

Video. Inès, 26 years old: “A fat woman can also be anorexic”

Later, it was at Le Parisien that the author returned to the illness from which she suffered: “Anorexia acted like chemotherapy. When it comes to these people who hurt me, I feel a deep nothingness. I never subscribed to a victim discourse, and that allowed me to move forward. My life is very difficult, but I am a happy person today.” However, if her words on anorexia are strong, Amélie Nothomb has always wanted to raise awareness around this evil: “It is out of the question that I value anorexia. Too many people idealize it by thinking that there’s something to be found in it. It’s not true! It’s wreaking havoc. I’d be a much better person if I hadn’t been anorexic.”

As was the case for Amélie Nothomb, women fall into the hell of anorexia after a violent and traumatic event, physical or psychological. This is also the subject of many studies that tend to make the link between sexual violence and eating disorders. In January 2022, a study published in the international journal Eating and Weight Disorders highlighted a figure: 4.3% of victims of sexual violence develop EDs…

Read also :

>> Amélie Nothomb confides in her “ransacked adolescence” and the sexual assault of which she was the victim

>> Amélie Nothomb tells us about the time when she was insulted at university

>> Inès, 26, suffered from anorexia: “Anorexia is not just a skinny white girl with a probe in her nose”

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