Une histoire d’amour dont les épisodes ont été mélangés par un fou” – Journal d’Hirondelle, Amélie Nothomb.
“A love story where the events were distorted by a lunatic” – Journal d’Hirondelle, Amélie Nothomb (unofficial translation)
Initial Thoughts: Last year, I went to a book sale hosted by a local library. Even though I had plenty of books, and summer was coming to an end, I really wanted to buy as many novels in French as a could. I figured that reading more in French would help me improve my written skills. Meanwhile, at the book fair, I stumbled upon Journal d’Hirondelle by: Amélie Nothomb. I had already been assigned to read Antechrista by: Amélie Nothomb for one of my French courses, and I decided to give it a try.
After being in a relationship that ended in a bitter heartbreak, a young man has lost all senses of reality. He becomes completely isolated from all sensations of pain and joy. In order to feel again, he decides to become an assassin. One day, after being assigned to assassinate a minister and his family, the man finds the journal of one of his victims. The journal stirs emotions inside him that he believed to be dead. After everything he has done, could he ever find redemption?
About the Book
Title: Journal d’Hirondelle
Author: Amélie Nothomb
Language: French (no English translation exists as of 2017)
Year Published: 2006
Genres & Subjects: Assassins, Fiction, Contemporary
Journal d’Hirondelle was my second Amélie Nothomb novel. Since then, I have read Antéchrista, Acide sulfurique, Journal d’Hirondelle, and Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam. If you are looking for similarities between all four novels, there really isn’t any. They are very different in genre and narrative techniques. It is as if these four novels have been written by four different authors who use the same pseudonym. The only similarity between the novels is that each of them have a particular measure of eccentricity that only Amélie Nothomb can pull off. Once you read a few of her novels, you will understand what I mean.
Journal d’Hirondelle is about a deranged man who goes by the name of Urbain (not his real name). He is completely heartbroken after being left by his lover. He is so heartbroken that life has completely lost its meaning. Urbain is completely cut off of all sensations, so much so that he feels absolutely no joy in anything. So, what do you do when you can no longer feel any pain or joy? Well, according to Urbain, the logical course of action is to become an assassin.
Journal d’Hirondelle is written completely in first person, which in my opinion, makes the book seem really creepy. Urbain is not the type of guy anyone would want to be friends with. However, although Urbain has basically lost all sense of morality, his position is very unique. When Urbain receives a special mission to assassinate a minister and his family, he does so without remorse or thought of the waste of human life. That is, until he reads up the journal of the minister’s daughter. Suddenly, Urbain’s perspective on life has completely changed. But… is it too late for Urbain to be redeemed? This question is left completely open ended by Nothomb. This is one of the many things that I like about Nothomb’s novels. She never plants answers into her readers’ mouths. Instead, she gives her readers the space to think while posing thought provoking questions.
Although this novel has not been translated into English as of 2017, for those who understand French, this is a rather easy novel to read. I am not a native French speaker, and I found this book to be very straightforward and interesting. The writing style is clean and effortless, it sounds almost poetic in places. It is also a very fast-paced novel that never lags. Honestly, there was never a dull moment with Urbain from beginning to the end.
I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy novels with highly developed characters. I found that this novel was more focused on Urbain and his thoughts rather than the events around him. I would also recommend this novel to those who enjoy novels with spies or assassins.
Final Rating: B+
Until Next Time,