Charlotte Shane at Bookforum:
NO WORKING WRITER believes in the shattering power of an encounter—with another person, with a new sensation, with possibility—more than Amélie Nothomb, the prolific Paris-based Belgian who’s published a novel a year since 1992’s Hygiène de l’assassin (rendered in English as Hygiene and the Assassin, though a more accurate title would be The Assassin’s Purity). Her first book offered an impressive blueprint of what would define her subsequent work: arrogant, infuriating personalities; vicious character clashes; childhood love so obsessive that it bleeds out over an adult’s entire history; and philosophical declarations about war. (Nothomb’s fervent worship of “war,” used to describe any grand conflict, is as distinctive a signature as her actual name.) “My books are more harmful than war,” brags the author at the center of Hygiene, “because they make you want to die, whereas war, in fact, makes you want to live.” His demeanor is so provoking that it incites murder, which is another Nothomb theme. People are always destroying one another. She’s killed a self-named avatar off on at least two separate occasions.