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Amelie Nothomb. Barbe bleue.

Amelie Nothomb. Barbe bleue .

Paris. Albin Michel. 2012.

ISBN ISBN
abbr.
International Standard Book Number


ISBN International Standard Book Number

ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m 
 9782226242969

Feminist revisionist mythmaking has often seized on the legend of Bluebeard, supposedly inspired by the fifteenth-century Breton serial killer Gilles de Rais
For the video game character named after Rais, see Gilles de Rais (Castlevania).
Gilles de Rais (also spelled Retz) (September 10, 1404 – October 26, 1440) was a French noble, soldier, and one time brother-in-arms of Joan of Arc.
. In the realm of Anglo-Saxon literature, one thinks of memorable reworkings of the genre by Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Recent examples in France include Anne Terral's elegantly Kafkaesque take on Perrault's fairytale in Curiosite (2009). Amelie Nothomb's version is also a fine and dazzlingly exciting contribution to the legend.

This short and fast-paced novel casts the protagonists in a contemporary Parisian setting. Saturnine sat·ur·nine
adj.
1. Melancholy or sullen.

2. Produced by absorption of lead.



saturnine

pertaining to lead, the poisonous metal.
, the heroine, takes the RER RER Regione Emilia-Romagna
RER Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum
RER Respiratory Exchange Ratio
RER Real Exchange Rate
RER Réseau Express Régional (French commuter rail in Paris)
RER Replication Error
RER Rental Equipment Register
 local train to get to Bluebeard's mansion, where a suspiciously cheap rental awaits her. Nothomb is adept at splicing the real world with the fairytale so that the reader has no difficulty suspending disbelief.

Don Elemirio Nibal y Milcar, the lavishly named Bluebeard figure, is a Spanish nobleman who lives at the heart of Paris. Unlike the traveling businessman in Perrault's original folktale, Don Elemirio never leaves his abode: it is so vast that it feels empty even when he's at home.

During her first encounter with him, Saturnine watches the noble Spaniard delicately pile eggs into a pyramid shape before treating her to an omelet whose perfection is "intimidating." Don Elemirio turns out to be perfectly obnoxious in almost every possible way, and yet his otherworldly skill in cookery and dress designing, as well as his formidable generosity, wealth, and intelligence, finally begin to work their magic on the very wary, tough-minded heroine.

Don Elemirio makes no bones about having killed his former wives, arguing that love requires trust. Deeply religious, he compares his wife-trap to the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden Garden of Eden
n.
See Eden.

Noun 1. Garden of Eden - a beautiful garden where Adam and Eve were placed at the Creation; when they disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were
. His forbidden room is an unlocked photographer's darkroom with a special mechanism that is triggered upon entry.

As always, Nothomb's learning is ostentatious yet winsome and edifying at the same time; her dialogue is quaintly old-fashioned in an irresistibly flamboyant way that suits her often monstrously aristocratic characters. While her retelling of the tale has strong feminist overtones (which, one might add, even Perrault's tale already possessed), the heroine's attitude to the monstrous patriarch becomes increasingly ambiguous as the novel comes to its dose. As in most of Nothomb's previous works, sympathy for and attraction to the monstrous is a powerful narrative force.

Erik Martiny

Paris Sciences et Lettres
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Author:Martiny, Erik
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:483
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