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"Psychopompe": what does the title of Amélie Nothomb's next novel mean?


Follower of very mysterious titles, the Belgian author has called his next novel Psychopompe. Where does this word come from?

“Writing is stealing”


Here is the summary of Amélie Nothomb's next novel.

His title?


(Albin Michel).

For the author with 31 books, who has published with the regularity of a metronome since 1992, writing is also drawing.

Draw from various legends, stories and religious beliefs to embody its plots, its characters.

To discover

  • Crosswords, arrow words, 7 Letters... Free to play anywhere, anytime with the Le Figaro Games app

The latter, with rare and surprising names, often give their name to the title of the Belgian writer's books.

This is the case with



Riquet à la houppe



, or

Barbe Bleue


Similarly, convoluted formulas and outdated terms are highly appreciated.


Metaphysics of hits




Les Catilinaires


Les Aérostats

… This time, it was the word “psychopompe” that caught Nothomb's attention.

But what is it referring to?

From Earth to Hell

As the French Academy mentions in its


, “psychopompe” is an adjective that appeared in 19th century France to speak of a god or a hero leading the souls of the dead to Hell, or bringing them back from there.

From the Greek “psukhopompos” (“who leads souls to Hell”), composed from “psukhê” (“breath, life, soul”) and “pompos” (“guide, conductor”), itself derived from “pempein” (“to guide, to accompany, to escort”), one speaks of Orpheus psychopomp or Hermes psychopomp.

“Greek-Egyptian speculation made Hermes [...] the transformer of energies, the principle of the evolution of the soul, the psychopomp god”

, can we read in the

Trésor de la langue française


To read alsoBarbery, Gaudé, Carrère d'Encausse... What to read in a quarter of an hour according to the writers?

But the term is also a masculine noun.

It is said, for example, of Charon, the god of Greek mythology who carries the souls of the deceased on his boat to Hades - a very widespread figure from the 6th century BC -, that he is a "psychopomp ".

In the legends of lower Brittany, it is the Ankou who takes care of this task with the help of a creaking cart.

And in Christian iconography, the Archangel Saint Michael is represented as a “psychopomp” of the elect in Paradise – here an allegory of the final victory of Good over Evil.

Many beliefs and religions have spirits, saints and creatures responsible for escorting souls to other worlds.

We probably expect to see the Nothombian disciples flying towards the new world of the Belgian author.

Source: lefigaro

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