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Quotidiennement sollicitée par du courrier de ses lecteurs, Amélie va un jour tomber sur une lettre inattendue... Un G.I coincé en Irak l'appelle au secours pour tenter de survivre dans cette drôle de guerre. Pour se rebeller, ce white trash se goinfre de junk-food, arborant sa graisse comme une amoureuse enveloppante. Mue par son instinct de Saint-Bernard, l'écrivain lui Quotidiennement sollicitée par du courrier de ses lecteurs, Amélie va un jour tomber sur une lettre inattendue... Un G.I coincé en Irak l'appelle au secours pour tenter de survivre dans cette drôle de guerre. Pour se rebeller, ce white trash se goinfre de junk-food, arborant sa graisse comme une amoureuse enveloppante. Mue par son instinct de Saint-Bernard, l'écrivain lui répond en lui parlant de body-art. S'ensuit une relation épistolaire étrange...


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Quotidiennement sollicitée par du courrier de ses lecteurs, Amélie va un jour tomber sur une lettre inattendue... Un G.I coincé en Irak l'appelle au secours pour tenter de survivre dans cette drôle de guerre. Pour se rebeller, ce white trash se goinfre de junk-food, arborant sa graisse comme une amoureuse enveloppante. Mue par son instinct de Saint-Bernard, l'écrivain lui Quotidiennement sollicitée par du courrier de ses lecteurs, Amélie va un jour tomber sur une lettre inattendue... Un G.I coincé en Irak l'appelle au secours pour tenter de survivre dans cette drôle de guerre. Pour se rebeller, ce white trash se goinfre de junk-food, arborant sa graisse comme une amoureuse enveloppante. Mue par son instinct de Saint-Bernard, l'écrivain lui répond en lui parlant de body-art. S'ensuit une relation épistolaire étrange...

30 review for Une forme de vie Audiobook PACK [Book + 1 CD MP3]

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I wasn’t in the mood for such clunking metaphor. Life Form is an epistolary novel, linking an European author with an obese American solider in Baghdad. We could stop there. I’m sure no one has ever considered acquisitive American mania with over-eating and imperialism. I would recommend Solar instead. Apparently the author is rather prolific and I thus extend her a pass, while I accept this was an idea that didn’t bear fruit I am likewise hesitant to open any more of her work in the near future I wasn’t in the mood for such clunking metaphor. Life Form is an epistolary novel, linking an European author with an obese American solider in Baghdad. We could stop there. I’m sure no one has ever considered acquisitive American mania with over-eating and imperialism. I would recommend Solar instead. Apparently the author is rather prolific and I thus extend her a pass, while I accept this was an idea that didn’t bear fruit I am likewise hesitant to open any more of her work in the near future.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Two hundred pounds is already a huge person. I’m richer by one whole huge person now. Since she came and joined me here, I’ve been calling her Scheherazade. It’s not very kind to the real Scheherazade, who must have been a slender creature. But I’d rather identify her with one person and not two, and with a woman rather than a man, probably because I’m heterosexual. Besides, I like the idea of Scheherazade. She speaks to me all night long. She knows I can’t make love anymore, so instead of doing Two hundred pounds is already a huge person. I’m richer by one whole huge person now. Since she came and joined me here, I’ve been calling her Scheherazade. It’s not very kind to the real Scheherazade, who must have been a slender creature. But I’d rather identify her with one person and not two, and with a woman rather than a man, probably because I’m heterosexual. Besides, I like the idea of Scheherazade. She speaks to me all night long. She knows I can’t make love anymore, so instead of doing it with me she charms me with her beautiful stories. I’ll let you in on my secret: it’s thanks to Scheherazade’s storytelling that I can live with my obesity. I don’t need to make you a drawing to show you what would happen to me if the guys found out I gave the name of a woman to my fat. But I know that you won’t judge me. You have a few obese characters in your books, and the way you portray them they never lack dignity. And in your books they make up strange legends, like Scheherazade, to be able to go on living. It’s as if she were the one writing this letter. I can’t get her to stop. I’ve never written such a long message in my life, which proves it’s not me. I hate my obesity, but I love Scheherazade. At night when my weight presses down my chest, I imagine it’s not me but a beautiful young woman lying on my body. I immerse myself in the story and I can hear her sweet feminine voice murmuring indescribable things in my ear. Then my fat arms squeeze her flesh and it’s so convincing that instead of feeling my own flab, I am touching a lover’s smooth skin. At times like that, believe me, I am happy. Better still: we are happy, she and I, the way only lovers can be. *** Since discovering an English translation of Amélie Nothomb’s first novella Hygiene and the Assassin a couple of years ago, I’ve devoured, in very short order, what little of her work I’ve been able to find. This is fitting, given the themes of consumption—both of the artist and their art—at the heart of Life Form. Employing a predominantly epistolary format, Life Form tells the story of the world famous writer Amélie Nothomb and her was-it-real-or-wasn’t-it correspondence with a man named Melvin Mapple, a dangerously obese and downtrodden American soldier stationed in Iraq in 2008. Mapple is a fan of Nothomb’s writing. He reaches out to her first for understanding, then for inspiration as he pours his woes out to an intrigued if not entirely confident ear. Mapple’s body is at once his worst enemy and closest confidante; he is a compulsive eater, using food to deal with the horrors he’s experienced as a soldier in Iraq. Over time, he has developed an attachment to the extra weight he carries around, seeing it as a lover, a family, an act of sabotage, and in the end, a work of art. Through their correspondence, Nothomb addresses not only her own misgivings about Mapple’s attitude towards his self, but her reluctance to emotionally involve herself with a fan—someone she’s never met who, like so many who write to her every week, is in some way devouring a part of her as he slowly devours his own will to exist. I won’t say much more about the plot because, like all of Nothomb’s books, Life Form is a trim, fast read that is best experienced in only one or two sittings. This novella, while embracing its uniquely epistolary format, does tread on some familiar ground for the author; weight, size, obesity, and the control or lack thereof such things symbolize are a continuing source of antagonism in her work—never a thing for belittling or condemning, but something to be at first acknowledged, then confronted, pulled into the here and now in order to be better understood. From the beginning of her career, via the embittered, misogynistic Prétextat Tach of Hygiene and the Assassin, obesity and size have been prominent components of Nothomb’s literature. In Life Form, she’s able to muster an appreciation for Mapple as long as he remains on the other end of their correspondence, invisible and out of sight; she can dispense sympathy and support with greater ease than if her were in front of her, confronting her with his size. This point is made clear when two thirds of the way through the novella she receives a photograph of Mapple in all his corpulence. In that instant, the pondering over his girth and what it means for his health and mental state is replaced by an overwhelming parade of visual notes: It hit me right in the face: a naked, hairless thing, so enormous that it spilled over the edge. A blister in full expansion: you could sense the flesh constantly searching for new opportunities to spread and swell, to conquer new terrain. The fresh flab must have to cross continents of fatty tissue to blossom on the surface, before crusting over like bacon draped over a roast to become the support for even newer fat. Thus is the void conquered by obesity: to add weight, the body annexes the empty space. Not terribly warm-hearted of her, but striking and sense-igniting all the same. This passage, for all its negativity, is the author once more stripping her skin for the reader, revealing her… not her hatred of fat, but her fear of it, her struggle for control projected outward. Before seeing Mapple, his fat is simply an idea, not yet a reality—a mirror into which she sees something still worth raising one’s hackles over. As the narrative progresses and, following certain revelations, plans to meet are made, the correspondence as a hunger in and of its self is made clear. Nothomb discusses the trouble with correspondence—the public feeding off the artist, always begging, always asking for more of her mind, her time, and her ideas. What become more obvious over time are the direct parallels between Mapple’s at times bi-polar reaction to his own physique and Nothomb’s semi-transparent social anxiety, each of which has roots in the other. Both, when all is said and done, tread a delicate balance between acknowledging their own fears and psychological limitations and self-victimizing in order to better avoid life and the world outside their tiny, protective-yet-destructive bubbles. Life Form is a missive about devouring and being devoured in every sense of the word, and where control rests in such situations. There’s a certain amount of curiosity and innocence to Nothomb’s writing and how she sees and interacts with the world—in a perfunctory and highly visual manner, but not at all outwardly combative or dismissive. By often placing herself—or, at the very least, a heightened, possibly slightly fictionalized version of herself—at the forefront of the stories she tells, Nothomb crafts an unusually strong relationship with the reader in which she largely avoids social criticism and points her knives instead at her own chest. Life Form, like all her novellas, is a clean glass of ice water embracing an absolute brevity of language to maximum effect. Whether the correspondence between the author and Mapple actually happened is irrelevant, and surprisingly enough I have no desire to look further into the matter. What is important in the case of this narrative is the author’s willingness and ability to, without reservation, sheer away any and all pretension she might have had in favour of an honest appraisal of both Mapple and herself. What is revealed by the narrative’s end is equal parts sad, unsettling, and touching.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    Life Form is a compelling and original book. For a start, Nothomb herself is the narrator, a Belgium writer living in France who receives a fan letter from an American soldier stationed in Iraq. At first, she gives a rote reply and is not too interested, but as the letters continue to come she gets caught up in the young man's story. Melvin Mapple is grotesquely obese, and his over-eating is a side-effect of the shock and horror of war, and a protest against it. I saw my first combat, with rocke Life Form is a compelling and original book. For a start, Nothomb herself is the narrator, a Belgium writer living in France who receives a fan letter from an American soldier stationed in Iraq. At first, she gives a rote reply and is not too interested, but as the letters continue to come she gets caught up in the young man's story. Melvin Mapple is grotesquely obese, and his over-eating is a side-effect of the shock and horror of war, and a protest against it. I saw my first combat, with rocket fire, tanks, bodies exploding next to me and the men I killed myself. I discovered the meaning of terror. There may be some brave people who can stand it, but I'm not one of them. Some people lose their appetite, but most of them, including me, have just the opposite reaction. You come back from battle in a state of shock, terrified, amazed that you're alive, and the first thing you do after you change your pants (you'll have soiled them for sure) is make a beeline for the food. [...] You go crazy. There's something broken in us. It's not exactly that we like eating in this way, we just can't help it, we could kill ourselves eating, and maybe that's what we want.. [pp.24-5] Mapple has put on two hundred pounds since going to Iraq, he tells Nothomb, and has even named his fat Scheherazade. 'She' gives him a sense of happiness, and protection. Amélie is increasingly riveted by Mapple's story, and encourages him to make a statement with his girth. As their epistolary friendship grows, she reveals things about her own public and private self and develops a kind of fondness for this obese soldier and his sad story. But this friendship built on shared words on paper is a fragile thing, and not entirely what it seems. This is such a great book - I loved the premise, and the idea of using fat to protest the war, fantastic! But also tragic, because I can completely relate, or empathise with the idea of eating to deal with trauma; seems surprising it hasn't actually happened already (I think army rations has something to do with it - and once they've returned to their home lands, no one pays any attention to veterans, do they?). It is an odd feeling, reading a fictional story in which the writer has made themselves the main character - you don't know whether they're wearing a persona or not. Why do that? Why not simply make someone up, like usual? Or maybe this is Nothomb's style, I don't know - she might be prolific in Europe but she's not so well-known in English. I'm just curious, really, but I get the sense that all the details about her letter-writing and attitude are autobiographical. That reminds me: another aspect that is enjoyable about this book are her discussions around writing, letters and the blurred boundaries between public and private spheres for a writer.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Iris

    A graphomaniac, Nothomb creates at least one novel per year while maintaining an immense correspondence. She's known to respond personally to each letter she receives. This novel dramatizes that practice: Amélie shares her (fictional) letters to and from a melancholy US soldier in Iraq. A Baltimore-born soldier who has read all her novels? An incisive insider critique of junk-food mess halls? A way into the vast problem of military health? (Check out an article in Slate about the appalling smorg A graphomaniac, Nothomb creates at least one novel per year while maintaining an immense correspondence. She's known to respond personally to each letter she receives. This novel dramatizes that practice: Amélie shares her (fictional) letters to and from a melancholy US soldier in Iraq. A Baltimore-born soldier who has read all her novels? An incisive insider critique of junk-food mess halls? A way into the vast problem of military health? (Check out an article in Slate about the appalling smorgasboard in mess halls at home and abroad: http://www.slate.com/id/2285229/ from 2/28/2011). In the end, Amélie Nothomb's critique of American gluttony spirals into something wonderfully unexpected: she imagines the place of imagination and creativity in the face of Homeland Security, and our power to strike awe in our friends, correspondents, and neighbors. The last paragraph is staggering and takes this novel/memoir far away from its initial preachiness.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Nothomb's books are often unconventional, yet this one still surprised me with its mixture of reality and fiction, the subject matter, the format, and the plot twists towards the end. In the space of 170 pages, as well as telling an involving and moving story she manages to touch on issues of body image, written vs. verbal communication, fame, writing itself, and much more besides. Impressive stuff. Nothomb's books are often unconventional, yet this one still surprised me with its mixture of reality and fiction, the subject matter, the format, and the plot twists towards the end. In the space of 170 pages, as well as telling an involving and moving story she manages to touch on issues of body image, written vs. verbal communication, fame, writing itself, and much more besides. Impressive stuff.

  6. 4 out of 5

    maida ♡

    umm… yeah. I don’t know if I didn’t like this book or if I just didn’t get it. It was fairly easy to get through though, and it still was kind of interesting, but what the fuck was that ending. I read this solely for my psychology class, and I don’t think its memorable enough for it to transcend that. Will I read a book by this author ever again? probably not. 6. A book originally written in a language other than English

  7. 4 out of 5

    oioana

    I didn't like the ending... I didn't like the ending...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sonia

    This was a particularly unusual story to read. I have been recently favouring translated fiction and so far it has been a bit of a hit and miss experience. The blurb was not appealing at all but I was still very intrigued. It is not often I’m faced with such a unique storyline. This novella is a narrative by one Amelie Nothomb (yes, the same name as the author) with mostly exchanges of letters between her and a soldier stationed in Iraq. We subsequently discover that this soldier, Melvin Mapple, This was a particularly unusual story to read. I have been recently favouring translated fiction and so far it has been a bit of a hit and miss experience. The blurb was not appealing at all but I was still very intrigued. It is not often I’m faced with such a unique storyline. This novella is a narrative by one Amelie Nothomb (yes, the same name as the author) with mostly exchanges of letters between her and a soldier stationed in Iraq. We subsequently discover that this soldier, Melvin Mapple, has become obese in his time overseas, in what seems to be a rebellious protest against the war. In an attempt to deal with the disgust he feels towards himself and the situation he finds himself in, Melvin has created a woman of his fat and has called her Scheherazade. With the violence around him, he closes his eyes at night and cradles ‘her’. Amelie is shocked by this revelation but she veils her shock with a sense of concern and even enthusiasm for his protesting ways. Yes, Amelie (the narrator) is ridiculing him but Melvin takes it as encouragement to further his fattening protests. This story flirts between plausible and ridiculous. Melvin puts forward his case, how different is it when someone protests with famine? We are certainly more familiar with famine protest (Gandhi, for instance) than with an eating protest. Society is uncomfortable with obesity, as writer Lionel Shriver states, it’s so obvious and it’s a choice but is it, really? Shriver’s upcoming novel Big Brother also deals with the issue of obesity (it was heartbreaking to hear Shriver’s own story of her brother that died four years earlier of obesity). The solider in this novella often tries to explain his compulsive eating but cannot. Melvin says “Obesity is not a communicable experience.” There is the obvious theme of the psychological wounds that soldiers battle when faced with extremes of violence during war but I felt that this wasn’t the author’s focus. I was intrigued by the narrator’s thoughts on letter writing, her preference is to write a letter to someone rather than talk to that person face-to-face. She is then told she doesn’t like people because of this preference. Nothomb replies: "I object: why should someone be more real just because you have him or her across from you? Why shouldn’t their truth stand out better, or simply different, in a letter?" It makes me think of a few people I know who are not so truthful… The story ends with a surprising twist. This twist can only have happened because the story is mostly written in letters. Sometimes I find that different forms of writing are thrown into novels just to do something different – a poem here, song lyrics there. These elements don’t add any meaning to the story except as embellishment. In this novella, the twist only works with the letters. It’s because of the letters that events unfold, revealing truths and untruths.

  9. 5 out of 5

    A.

    This is a strange little novella translated from the French. The narrator is the author Amelie Nothomb. I usually love this kind of thing, especially when Philip Roth did it in Operation Shylock, and I enjoyed Nothomb's take on playing with identity. Nothomb, the fictional narrator, gets into a correspondence with an obese American soldier in Iraq. The letters back and forth are fascinating, but sometimes Nothomb's commentary on what's happening is less than astute. The criticisms of the war see This is a strange little novella translated from the French. The narrator is the author Amelie Nothomb. I usually love this kind of thing, especially when Philip Roth did it in Operation Shylock, and I enjoyed Nothomb's take on playing with identity. Nothomb, the fictional narrator, gets into a correspondence with an obese American soldier in Iraq. The letters back and forth are fascinating, but sometimes Nothomb's commentary on what's happening is less than astute. The criticisms of the war seem a bit trite and worn out. I agree with the point of view but I've heard it all before. The soldier is basically a caricarture of American gluttony. Overall, I enjoyed Nothomb's prose and I've always been a fan of the epistolary novel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Pappas

    Richly symbolic and deeply allegorical, this quasi-epistolary novel tells the tale of two inveterate fiction writers -- one, the author-made-character, Belgian writer Amelie Nothomb, and two, a depressed and increasingly obese correspondent whose tales of self-loathing and self-obliteration in occupied Iraq captivate Nothomb. Both a political allegory and fascinating psychological drama, Nothomb's book is about both personal and cultural narcissism, the resulting lack of self-knowledge, and usin Richly symbolic and deeply allegorical, this quasi-epistolary novel tells the tale of two inveterate fiction writers -- one, the author-made-character, Belgian writer Amelie Nothomb, and two, a depressed and increasingly obese correspondent whose tales of self-loathing and self-obliteration in occupied Iraq captivate Nothomb. Both a political allegory and fascinating psychological drama, Nothomb's book is about both personal and cultural narcissism, the resulting lack of self-knowledge, and using stories (or perhaps grand, totalizing myths) as hiding places, and escape hatches. Another hit from Europa Editions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Temy

    In just 125 pages, Nothomb addressed many different social issues in this partly autobiographical, partly epistolary novel: the gorging of food among US Army soldiers stationed in Iraq as a means to deal with the atrocities of the unjust war; the epistolary relationship between a writer and her fan readers and the art of writing letters; the relationship with food and one's treatment of obesity as a work of art; the identity issue; and the shared reality which may or may not be true. Life Form is In just 125 pages, Nothomb addressed many different social issues in this partly autobiographical, partly epistolary novel: the gorging of food among US Army soldiers stationed in Iraq as a means to deal with the atrocities of the unjust war; the epistolary relationship between a writer and her fan readers and the art of writing letters; the relationship with food and one's treatment of obesity as a work of art; the identity issue; and the shared reality which may or may not be true. Life Form is a brilliantly clever novel blending fact and fiction together in a humorous and satirical tone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Isadora

    Amélie Nothomb proves once again that she is the master of originality with Une Forme de Vie. She creates a fictitious Nothomb who one day receives a letter from an American soldier stationed in Iraq, Melvin Mapple. Mapple reveals through his correspondence with the Belgian writer his unique way of repenting for the sins of a military man. Could his twisted justifications be considered an art form?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I did really like this book - above all its originality - and all the themes it covered in such a short space, obesity, self-image, epistolary communication, etc etc. I enjoyed the twists in the tale but the endng... well, I can't mention that without spoiling things so shall leave that up in the air! I did really like this book - above all its originality - and all the themes it covered in such a short space, obesity, self-image, epistolary communication, etc etc. I enjoyed the twists in the tale but the endng... well, I can't mention that without spoiling things so shall leave that up in the air!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessie in Fashion Limbo

    Great if you want to improve your French. Short and sweet, interesting story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    About 7.8 percent of the military—roughly one in every 13 troops—is clinically overweight, defined by a body mass-index greater than 25. This rate has crept upward since 2001, when it was just 1.6 percent, or one in 60, according to Defence Department data obtained by Military Times. And it's highest among women, blacks, Hispanics and older service members. – Andrew Tilghman, ‘The U.S. military has a huge problem with obesity and it's only getting worse’, Military Times, September 11, 2016This i About 7.8 percent of the military—roughly one in every 13 troops—is clinically overweight, defined by a body mass-index greater than 25. This rate has crept upward since 2001, when it was just 1.6 percent, or one in 60, according to Defence Department data obtained by Military Times. And it's highest among women, blacks, Hispanics and older service members. – Andrew Tilghman, ‘The U.S. military has a huge problem with obesity and it's only getting worse’, Military Times, September 11, 2016This is not new news. Amélie Nothomb read about it over a decade ago in an article in USA Today article (presumably similar to this one published in The Observer in 2009) and it was obvious even back then obesity in the military was becoming an issue. Clearly it piqued her interest and the result was 2010’s epistolary novel Life Force. The first thing you’ll need to understand about this book is it’s a work of fiction. It reads like a memoir but don’t be fooled simply because there’s a character called ‘Amélie Nothomb’ who’s eerily similar to the woman whose name’s on the cover of the book. Back in 2005 we’d been treated to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s excellent sitcom Extras and so the idea of an actor playing a “twisted” version of their public persona is something we’re now very familiar with. Authors, however, had been inserting versions of themselves in their works for years, W. Somerset Maughan as far back as the forties. The main reason we know this is a work of fiction is the simple fact the army wouldn’t have tolerated a bunch of active soldiers piling on hundreds of pounds—in 2007 alone 112 soldiers were let go for being overweight and that number has climbed and climbed—but for the sake of the story let’s accept what we’re told as an exaggerated version of the truth. The novel begins:That morning I received a new sort of letter: Baghdad, December 18, 2008 Dear Amélie Nothomb, I’m a private in the US Army, my name is Melvin Mapple, you can call me Mel. I’ve been posted in Baghdad ever since the beginning of this fucking war, over six years ago. I’m writing to you because I am as down as a dog. I need some understanding and I know that if anyone can understand me, you can. Please answer. I hope to hear from you soon. Melvin MappleNot such an unusual letter for an author to receive although the author’s gut feeling is it’s a hoax. Had he been Belgian or French she might not have questioned it. “But a private in the US Army, based in Iraq?” She spends a long time mulling over the letter and finally, because her “capacity for putting up with other people’s pain [is] fit to burst” she decides simply to send him signed copies of those of her novels which had been translated into English and be done with it. Not even two weeks have passed when he replies:Thank you for your novels. What do you want me to do with them? And so a correspondence begins that lasts some three months in which we discover why exactly Private Mapple has been “down as a dog.” In the army you can eat. The food is good, there’s plenty of it, and it’s free. The day I enlisted they weighed me: a hundred and twenty pounds for five foot nine. I don’t think I fooled them for one minute as to the real reason I’d joined up. I know I’m for sure not the only one who’s ever become a soldier for that reason. […] Can you imagine, since I’ve been in Iraq I’ve put on over two hundred pounds. Forty pounds a year. And it’s not over. I’ll be here another eighteen months, time enough to put on seventy pounds. People react to the horrors of war in different ways. We’d understand if he had PTSD. Why’s it so hard to imagine a man seeking comfort in food as a way to fill the growing emptiness inside him? If you’ve read anything by Nothomb before you’ll be aware that she has a fascination with the grotesque. In Hygiene and the Assassin, for example, the writer Prétextat Tach is similarly revealed to be a loathsome glutton, obese, squat, balding and, in his own words, singularly unattractive. Epiphanes Otos, in Attack, is monster of ugliness with an enlightened mind, fine and delicate sensibilities. The gargantuan Dr Palamedes Bernardin, in The Stranger Next Door, is a morose man who resembles a “depressed Buddha.” His wife is an equally enormous woman whom the narrator calls the cyst. Further description includes "tentacles," "muffled grunts," "octopus." By comparison Melvin Mapple is actually quite sweet in a sad way. There’s not much of a story here but that’s okay. Little by little Melvin opens up and the author tries to understand and be supportive. Then one day the letters stop. Is he dead—he is in a warzone after all—or seriously injured? Finally the author can’t bear not knowing and sets out to find out and that’s when things get interesting. Although the correspondence in this instance is carried on by letter it is as relevant—more so—to those of us who spend more time (and, sometimes, more time than is healthy) online. Who are we really talking to? Of course mostly when people misrepresent themselves they’re more likely to make more of their good qualities and not their girt but, hey, we live in strange times. The interesting thing is, apart from her initial reticence, how quickly the author gets caught up in the soldier’s world but I don’t see that as strange, quite the opposite. It’s not so much that we writers are gullible but we do want to believe. This book can be seen as a criticism of American politics especially its military policies or of American gluttony (an estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight) but I really don’t think the author has any axe to grind when it comes to the good ol’ US of A. Its core question is much simpler: Why do we do shit? And how can me make the shit we do mean something more than, well… shit. We’re too willing to impute meaning to meaningless acts. Mapple is not a body artist. And he doesn’t need a pen pal; he needs a shrink. The end seems to have divided people and I can see why—I mean, how do you end a book like this?—but I thought it worked.

  16. 5 out of 5

    zhixin

    Life Form is perhaps a cautionary tale on the dangers of letter-writing. I say that with my best Amelie Nothomb expression, which is best described as a veneer of laughter over an earnest core. The book is primarily a correspondence between Nothomb and Melvin Mapple, who introduces himself as a private in the US Army posted in Baghdad with an obesity issue arising from the trauma of witnessing war horrors. He starts the correspondence by proclaiming his faith in Nothomb in being able to provide s Life Form is perhaps a cautionary tale on the dangers of letter-writing. I say that with my best Amelie Nothomb expression, which is best described as a veneer of laughter over an earnest core. The book is primarily a correspondence between Nothomb and Melvin Mapple, who introduces himself as a private in the US Army posted in Baghdad with an obesity issue arising from the trauma of witnessing war horrors. He starts the correspondence by proclaiming his faith in Nothomb in being able to provide sorely-needed understanding, which perplexes her understandably since her novels aren't even in English. However, she replies to all her correspondence, and so sends him some autographed copies of her books intending to do her part for literacy in the Corn Belt. Over the correspondence -- the dynamic being Mapple as confider and Nothomb as listener -- he reels her interest in with the strange tale of his attitude towards his morbidly obese body, which he thinks of as a female companion. Nothomb becomes increasingly invested in his story, to the point where she puts in remarkable effort to trace him when his correspondence ends abruptly. When the reason for that is revealed, the thrall of his tale has developed such a hold on her that she impulsively makes plans to see him in real life. Regretting her decision on the way there, the novel ends in usual bizarre Nothomb fashion. It's an easy read, and there's something very likeable about Nothomb's humour and inherent kindness -- not indiscriminate, not the kind which sees you volunteering for every social cause, but in the way she respects even random strangers and offers her open mind to their unconventional mindsets and lifestyles. I also liked its illustration of how natural human affection and a kind of social obligation can be aroused through a medium as seemingly frigid as letter-writing, probably because I'm very prone to that, ie investing considerable amounts of emotional energy in people whom I don't even need to have met, but have just talked to through text. There's something about writing that moves me potentially to a greater extent than face-to-face conversations, the privacy it affords for considered thoughts. So I guess that's part of Nothomb's appeal for me -- it's like finding a kindred soul.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There were several things about this book I found compelling - the idea of the author corresponding with so many people, for one, and her general enthusiasm for correspondence. But several of the details ruined the experience. The author got a lot of the details about the military so wrong...still a private after eight years in the army? Soldiers are all either promoted at regular intervals or else demobilized if they don't qualify for promotion. Spending the whole time in Iraq, with no rotation There were several things about this book I found compelling - the idea of the author corresponding with so many people, for one, and her general enthusiasm for correspondence. But several of the details ruined the experience. The author got a lot of the details about the military so wrong...still a private after eight years in the army? Soldiers are all either promoted at regular intervals or else demobilized if they don't qualify for promotion. Spending the whole time in Iraq, with no rotations back to the States? Also doesn't happen. Tours are are 9-18 months, and they generally don't allow more than two back-to-back, even in wartime. I also don't understand how she could have received letters from a war zone in such a short time - they'd have had to go back to the U.S. first to the mailing facility first. There's no way he could have received her letter, written a reply, and the reply have reached her, all in a mere six days. Even the premise of the book - that a soldier could put on a few hundred pounds in a combat zone - is just ridiculous. The military regularly has physical fitness tests (abbreviated as PFTs, and happening every six months to a year) that everyone (even people with desk jobs) have to pass, and on top of that even if you pass, you have to meet a certain BMI. Soldiers who are very muscular often fail because it measures BMI instead of fat percentages. It just made me feel like she wasn't very bright not to notice any of this. How can an author of several dozen books be so out of touch with the rest of the world as not to even question these things? So her bizarre decision at the end just made me think she's also pretty impulsive in addition to stupid, which sort of destroys the magic of a sympathetic narrator.

  18. 5 out of 5

    P. Rose

    Amelie Nothomb writes well. She frequently inserts herself into her stories when she is not in fact the protagonist. Her stories are often bizarre and have an otherworldly quality to them. I knew all this when I picked up Une forme de vie. The pleasure of her other books inspired me to read it. This one, though, just didn't stack up. I like least the books in which Nothomb plays a large role, but this one was especially narcissistic. Fictional fan letters? That goes a little far, don't you think, Amelie Nothomb writes well. She frequently inserts herself into her stories when she is not in fact the protagonist. Her stories are often bizarre and have an otherworldly quality to them. I knew all this when I picked up Une forme de vie. The pleasure of her other books inspired me to read it. This one, though, just didn't stack up. I like least the books in which Nothomb plays a large role, but this one was especially narcissistic. Fictional fan letters? That goes a little far, don't you think, Ms. Nothomb? In startling arrogance, Nothomb (in the story) assumes she knows everything about the man on the other side of the letters. Of course, Nothomb (in reality) does know all there is to know, since he is her character, but it was still hard to put up with. Nothomb was proven wrong about the character on several occasions, but the novel wasn't at all critical of her assumptions. I often recommend Nothomb to friends. This book will not be one of those I suggest.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andreea

    For some reason I had a hard time getting into this book. Nothomb's writing and narrative bored me. Which is something new and weird since I used to devour her books in high school and be absolutely in love with them, having a hard time putting them down and reading one book in a day... But this one just left me not caring. The ending, Nothombian as usual, was fun and the only thing that I enjoyed in this book. The themes are not bad. It's a mix of personal identity and a bunch of ideas about the For some reason I had a hard time getting into this book. Nothomb's writing and narrative bored me. Which is something new and weird since I used to devour her books in high school and be absolutely in love with them, having a hard time putting them down and reading one book in a day... But this one just left me not caring. The ending, Nothombian as usual, was fun and the only thing that I enjoyed in this book. The themes are not bad. It's a mix of personal identity and a bunch of ideas about the writer, its limits and boundaries. I don't think the book is bad by any means, I am just surprised that I did not react to it the usual way (and don't get me wrong, the first book I read by her I hated it so it wasn't a love-at-first-page relationship)... Which makes me wonder if it is me or my age or her?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    First book I've read by this author - translated into English. Know nothing about her other than what's on dust jacket. Successful woman writer, somewhat socially isolated, is known to her fans as someone who almost always answers personal letters, though she gets many of them every day. She becomes intrigued by an author who describes himself as a soldier in the US army, fighting in Iraq in a war he finds unjust. He describes himself as a lover of her work, and describes that he and fellow sold First book I've read by this author - translated into English. Know nothing about her other than what's on dust jacket. Successful woman writer, somewhat socially isolated, is known to her fans as someone who almost always answers personal letters, though she gets many of them every day. She becomes intrigued by an author who describes himself as a soldier in the US army, fighting in Iraq in a war he finds unjust. He describes himself as a lover of her work, and describes that he and fellow soldiers are becoming extremely obese. The anti-war theme is extremely subtle, but present. As is the author's view of the place of food, eating, and obesity (and personal beauty)in life. Quiet little book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Runwright

    Life Form seems to be in the usual Nothomb style where the author appears as the main character and narrates a brand of fiction built around her real life tendency to exchange letters with her readers. I thought the correspondence became a little inane and some of the decisions that the fictional Amelie made bordered on unbelievable. However, I enjoyed the premise of the relationship which allowed both French and American commentary on the Iraqi war as well as cultural perspectives on obesity an Life Form seems to be in the usual Nothomb style where the author appears as the main character and narrates a brand of fiction built around her real life tendency to exchange letters with her readers. I thought the correspondence became a little inane and some of the decisions that the fictional Amelie made bordered on unbelievable. However, I enjoyed the premise of the relationship which allowed both French and American commentary on the Iraqi war as well as cultural perspectives on obesity and other eating disorders. I also appreciated the nod to 1001 nights which is probably the most well-known artwork to have come out of that part of the world, that is, until Melvin Mapple debuted his own composition, which will forever be known as Life Form.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Writerlibrarian

    An average Nothomb with some brillant parts. This is part of her exploration of her life as fiction. Amélie, the writer, has a correspondance with an American soldier in Irak. In Nothomb’s classic way aka it’s self-centred and a bit precious. But, the idea is brillant. This soldier who gets hooked on food to combat fear, guilt in a war, society’s views of being obese, celebrity and reconnaissance as a way to exist are done with panache and keeps you reading. There is a lot of self reference to h An average Nothomb with some brillant parts. This is part of her exploration of her life as fiction. Amélie, the writer, has a correspondance with an American soldier in Irak. In Nothomb’s classic way aka it’s self-centred and a bit precious. But, the idea is brillant. This soldier who gets hooked on food to combat fear, guilt in a war, society’s views of being obese, celebrity and reconnaissance as a way to exist are done with panache and keeps you reading. There is a lot of self reference to her own books, life, etc. That’s tedious. The ending is very much Nothomb. Not surprising as I read this 10 years removed not because the ending is out of date but because it’s so banal now which says a lot about the emptiness that can be found all around us right now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Luna8891

    Like all the books written by Amelie Nothomb, this one leaves me intrigued. It has been a long time since I read her and I must say I enjoyed every single page! The main question in this book is: Why Do I Write? At first, I thought she was referring to writing in general. But the question is tricky. In the end, I realized the "writing" she was talking about stands more for the letters she writes. Communication. Why do we talk to others? The books shows how our own beliefs can become our worst enem Like all the books written by Amelie Nothomb, this one leaves me intrigued. It has been a long time since I read her and I must say I enjoyed every single page! The main question in this book is: Why Do I Write? At first, I thought she was referring to writing in general. But the question is tricky. In the end, I realized the "writing" she was talking about stands more for the letters she writes. Communication. Why do we talk to others? The books shows how our own beliefs can become our worst enemies and how, sometimes, we have to stop them - even if that means becoming a major threat to the US.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carla (literary.infatuation)

    “When you write, you should put your skin on the table” - Louis Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night. This is exactly what Amelie Nothomb does in “Life form”. She bares her soul, with all her insecurities and flaws. She is a character is her own novel. . This is the story of a Marvin Maple, an alleged American soldier stationed in Iraq. He is over 200 kilos and his weight is both his tormentor and love. Amelie and himself exchange letters until the nature of who he really is comes out “When you write, you should put your skin on the table” - Louis Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night. This is exactly what Amelie Nothomb does in “Life form”. She bares her soul, with all her insecurities and flaws. She is a character is her own novel. . This is the story of a Marvin Maple, an alleged American soldier stationed in Iraq. He is over 200 kilos and his weight is both his tormentor and love. Amelie and himself exchange letters until the nature of who he really is comes out into the light. I thought the book was ok until the very end when she captured me and show me why she is a world renowned author, praised from Belgium to Japan. It was marvelous.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leish

    This book was really odd for me. I have mixed feelings. If I’m reading it as a work of fiction, it was just okay. The protagonist was not very endearing. If I read this as semi-autobiographical, I really didn’t like it. If this isn’t autobiographical, why use her own name as the main character. Were we supposed to somehow relate to her, or even like her? It was all a little too snooty for me, and I honestly couldn’t get past my dislike. *This book was provided for review on Confessions of a Bookah This book was really odd for me. I have mixed feelings. If I’m reading it as a work of fiction, it was just okay. The protagonist was not very endearing. If I read this as semi-autobiographical, I really didn’t like it. If this isn’t autobiographical, why use her own name as the main character. Were we supposed to somehow relate to her, or even like her? It was all a little too snooty for me, and I honestly couldn’t get past my dislike. *This book was provided for review on Confessions of a Bookaholic. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ingeborg

    It would deserve three stars, were it not for the sloppy ending. It is very well written, and raises important issues. Are we the masters of our bodies? Is obesity a desease or a matter of a person being lazy and careless enough to let it happen? How do others treat obese persons, and how do they see themselves? This is also a novel about our relationships with others - how to write to someone you have never met? What are his/her reasons for writing, and how far could this relationship take you? It would deserve three stars, were it not for the sloppy ending. It is very well written, and raises important issues. Are we the masters of our bodies? Is obesity a desease or a matter of a person being lazy and careless enough to let it happen? How do others treat obese persons, and how do they see themselves? This is also a novel about our relationships with others - how to write to someone you have never met? What are his/her reasons for writing, and how far could this relationship take you? What are our personal boundaries? A very good novel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Most impressive is how deeply the author can go in analyzing human nature in so few pages. The novella began as what seemed to be a commentary of USA politics and the current Iraq war. It was about the usual European contempt for stupid, gluttonous, self-centered Americans. But the theme shifted quickly into human nature to hide behind letter-writing as a mask to one's true self. It became an introspection to introversion and perhaps agoraphobia. The letter-writing format of the book became less Most impressive is how deeply the author can go in analyzing human nature in so few pages. The novella began as what seemed to be a commentary of USA politics and the current Iraq war. It was about the usual European contempt for stupid, gluttonous, self-centered Americans. But the theme shifted quickly into human nature to hide behind letter-writing as a mask to one's true self. It became an introspection to introversion and perhaps agoraphobia. The letter-writing format of the book became less simple style and more the theme itself. Brilliant.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kirk Johnson

    was the ending perfect? i don't know. i'm pondering it, and will be pondering if for a while, which is good enough in itself. it's a very French book, written by a Belgian author who spends her time in France, and has that odd flavor of Milan Kundera and Marguerite Duras. i'm guessing this will be the start of a love affair with the author, who has written innumerable books, apparently all short - this was 125 pages - and each peculiar in its own way. wonderful as a palate cleanser after a novel was the ending perfect? i don't know. i'm pondering it, and will be pondering if for a while, which is good enough in itself. it's a very French book, written by a Belgian author who spends her time in France, and has that odd flavor of Milan Kundera and Marguerite Duras. i'm guessing this will be the start of a love affair with the author, who has written innumerable books, apparently all short - this was 125 pages - and each peculiar in its own way. wonderful as a palate cleanser after a novel, or - in this case - as a short break when Jane Eyre gets to be just too Jane Eyre for a while.

  29. 5 out of 5

    ياسمين خليفة

    Amelie Nothomb is probably my favorite contemporary author. I love her sarcasm and honesty and her unique perspective of the world. I am addicted to her books ,and that's why I expected so much of this novel. I don't know if it's really a novel but it is very interesting book where there is letters between the author and someone who claims to be an American soldier in Iraq. it was exciting in the start then it got boring in the middle and in the end , it got interesting again. It was fine but it Amelie Nothomb is probably my favorite contemporary author. I love her sarcasm and honesty and her unique perspective of the world. I am addicted to her books ,and that's why I expected so much of this novel. I don't know if it's really a novel but it is very interesting book where there is letters between the author and someone who claims to be an American soldier in Iraq. it was exciting in the start then it got boring in the middle and in the end , it got interesting again. It was fine but it wasn't as good as her other books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Blue Burke

    Amélie Nothomb is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth and twenty-first century. "Life Form" is the second work I have read by Nothomb, and it is equally as impressive as the first I read: "Strike Your Heart." Nothomb captures the human condition in a way not many authors are capable of doing. She is not afraid of the ugly--sides, truth, body, etc. In "Life Form," she is particularly self-aware as she includes Amélie Nothomb as one of two protagonists. In doing so, Nothomb comments on th Amélie Nothomb is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth and twenty-first century. "Life Form" is the second work I have read by Nothomb, and it is equally as impressive as the first I read: "Strike Your Heart." Nothomb captures the human condition in a way not many authors are capable of doing. She is not afraid of the ugly--sides, truth, body, etc. In "Life Form," she is particularly self-aware as she includes Amélie Nothomb as one of two protagonists. In doing so, Nothomb comments on the nature of writers and authors. Highly recommend!

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