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L'elegance du Hérisson (French…

L'elegance du Hérisson (French Edition) (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Muriel Barbery

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7,656487440 (3.81)2 / 814
Title:L'elegance du Hérisson (French Edition)
Authors:Muriel Barbery
Info:French & European Pubns (2006), Paperback, 360 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, France

Work details

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2006)

  1. 141
    The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (labfs39, chrisharpe)
    labfs39: Both have incredibly well-drawn, quirky characters that are lovable in their unique humaness. Both have highly intelligent characters that are vulnerable because of their very gift. In both books I learned things in fields not particularly close to me: math in Housekeeper and philosophy in Elegance.… (more)
  2. 30
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (morsecode)
    morsecode: The English-language editions (published by Europa Editions) of both novels are translated by Alison Andersen. There isn't a lot of similarity between the two novels (beyond the fact that both are quite literary), but I do think that someone who enjoys one will enjoy the other.… (more)
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    jll1976: There is the obvious 'Paris connection'. But, also a similar slow almost dreamlike quality. About the beauty of a 'simple' life.
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    klerulo: Not so much the commonality of a French setting but that of a very enigmatic, obscure heroine who attracts the attention of others who are discerning and sensitive enough to perceive the hidden depths.
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English (388)  Spanish (26)  French (26)  Italian (23)  German (10)  Finnish (7)  Swedish (5)  Dutch (4)  Catalan (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (494)
Showing 1-5 of 388 (next | show all)
I LOVED this book!! I listened to the audio version and immediately started over when I finished because I could not bare to leave these characters! I appreciated the foreshadowing and themes so much better the second time around. It is SUCH a lovely book and so well written. I just ADORE Renee Michelle! ( )
  DonnaB317 | Feb 27, 2015 |
This novel is narrated partly by Renee Michel, the concierge of an apartment building in Paris, and partly by Paloma Josse, a twelve year old girl who lives in one of the apartments. Renee is an autodidact, who has spent her adult life concealing her learning and intelligence and "acting" the pat of a typical concierge. Her early chapters contain lengthy musings on life, art and philosophy. Paloma despises her parents and sister and intends to set fire to her apartment and commit suicide on her birthday, because life is meaningless. During the course of the novel, a M. Ozu moves into one of the apartments, realizes that Renee is cultured and curious, and befriends her. Paloma is also drawn into this little club of intellectuals and decides that life is worth living after all, for the moments of beauty one comes across.

There is humour in this novel, as Mme. Michel is patronized by the apartment owners and as Paloma critiques her family, and there are clever parallels that arise in the thinking of Renee and Paloma. But... it took me a couple of goes to get into this book. There is a bit too much philosophy and either something has been lost in translation or some of it is a bit impenetrable. I was not very impressed with the translation (e.g. Why was "lavaliere" not translated? "...cushions covered with crocheted cases" had me puzzling over what these cases might be before I realized she just meant crocheted cushion covers. There were many, many instances where the language was unidiomatic and at least one wrongly conjugated verb, which really matters in a book where poor grammar is criticized consistently.)

The ending was sad, but not as sad as it might have been had I really engaged with the characters. Both Renee and, to a lesser extent, Paloma, come across as supercilious and unkind, and, while their observations amused me, I didn't identify with them. ( )
  pgchuis | Feb 8, 2015 |
Non saprei. Ci sono pagine che sembrano copiate da altri recenti libri inneggianti alla filosofia (Platone è meglio del Prozac, Manuale dell'Ateismo...). Poi ci sono capitoli surreali, dove la portinaia e/o la dodicenne hanno pensieri che rasentano il grottesco - per il peso specifico delle parole, che sembrano prese interamente da enciclopedie dell'Arte o da breviari del pensiero laico. Poi in altre sezioni ci sono informazioni interessanti sul go, e sui film di Ozu. E sulle porte scorrevoli. Ogni tanto, qualche frase saggia - di una saggezza che non sembra tuttavia appartenere all'autrice. Un libro denso di riferimenti 'intellettual-chic', che diventa ben presto borioso. Più che una 'raffinata commedia francese', un fantasy per intellettuali frustrati. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Renée Michel is a concierge for an upscale apartment building that is inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée is an intelligent autodidact that hides herself from the residents of this elegant apartment, trying to confirm every stereotype they might have towards a concierge. However a precocious girl named Paloma suspects there is something more about Renée. When a wealthy Japanese business man moves into the building, he sees right through the concierge’s façade and tries to befriend her for some intellectual conversations.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a highly successful novel by Muriel Barbery who obtained her agrégation in philosophy before becoming a professor for the Université de Bourgogne. The publication I read was a Europia edition that was translated by novelist and Literary translator Alison Anderson. L’Élégance du hérisson was translated into more than forty languages and has also been adapted into the 2009 movie The Hedgehog (Le hérisson) staring Josiane Balasko, Garance Le Guillermic and Togo Igawa.

This novel is full of allusions towards works of literature, music, films, and paintings, which is one of the reasons I loved this book. While it might come across as pretentious and somewhat cynical The Elegance of the Hedgehog plays a lot with the ideas of stereotypes, class-consciousness and acceptance. A philosophical novel that explores ideas of how we present ourselves to the world and if we should pretend to be someone different, if that is what others expect from you.

There are plenty of philosophical ideas running through this novel that presents different ideologies, Muriel Barbery has stated that literature is an effective way to explore philosophy. Having sat through plenty of long and boring philosophy classes she wanted a way to explore the ideas in a more effective and interesting way. I suspect people can get lost in the pretentious nature of this book but also the ending; however I think it was a fitting ending for the novel.

I found The Elegance of the Hedgehog to be a beautiful, if not recherché little novel and I enjoyed every moment of it. I wanted to turn back to page one and start again; I think there is plenty within this book to offer its readers. If you pay close attention to the book you might also notice that most of the book was told in a first person, present day nature that makes for a fresh look at the story that I didn’t notice till near the end. I know I should have paid more attention but this is one of the main reasons I wanted to re-read the book.

Lovers of philosophy and literature would love this book but also anyone interested in Marxism. I know I didn’t talk much about the class struggle within the book but that is because I have much to learn in this area. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an intelligent novel, full of references to literature, witty and smart humour with a satirical nature. The way this French novel translates into an elegant English novel is a testimony to Alison Anderson’s ability but she had a great piece of literature to work with. I would highly recommend this novel to everyone but maybe that isn’t a good idea, I think you have to be in the right frame of mind or mood to truly enjoy this book.

This review originally appeared on my blog: http://literary-exploration.com/2014/12/02/the-elegance-of-the-hedgehog-by-murie... ( )
1 vote knowledge_lost | Dec 3, 2014 |
The characters are awfully pretentious, but I think it fit them and in the end, I loved the book. Though it got a bit too much at times, but I just skipped some paragraphs until the author/character got her head screwed back on correctly.
  inkyphalangies | Nov 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 388 (next | show all)
Barbery’s sly wit, which bestows lightness on the most ponderous cogitations, keeps her tale aloft.
added by Nickelini | editthe New Yorker (Oct 20, 2008)
Le Figaro has described this book as 'the publishing phenomenon of the decade'. Elsewhere, there were comparisons to Proust. It sold more than a million copies in France last year and has won numerous awards. Does it match up to the hype? Almost. It is a profound but accessible book (not quite Proust, then), which elegantly treads the line between literary and commercial fiction.
added by Nickelini | editThe Guardian, Vicky Groskop (Sep 14, 2008)
Even when the novel is most essayistic, the narrators’ kinetic minds and engaging voices... propel us ahead.

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Muriel Barberyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Öjerskog, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, AlisonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enqvist, HelénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Stephane, with whom I wrote this book
First words
"Marx has completely changed the way I view the world," declared the Pallieres boy this morning, although ordinarily he says nary a word to me.
Thus, the television in the front room, guardian of my clandestine activities, could bleat away and I was no longer forced to listen to inane nonsense fit for the brain of a clam - I was in the back room, perfectly euphoric, my eyes filling with tears, in the miraculous presence of Art.
In the heat of the cinema, on the verge of tears, happier than I had ever been, I was holding the faint warmth of his hand for the first time in months. I knew that an unexpected surge of energy had roused him from his bed, given him the strength to get dressed and the urge to go out, the desire for us to share a conjugal pleasure one more time - and I knew, too, that this was the sign that there was not much time left, a state of grace before the end. But that did not matter to me, I just wanted to make the most of it, of these moments stolen from the burden of illness, moments with his warm hand in mine and a shudder of pleasure going through both of us...'
I flinched when she said bring and at that very moment Monsieur Something also flinched, and our eyes met. And since that infinitesimal nanosecond when - of this I am sure - we were joined in linguistic solidarity by the shared pain that made our bodies shudder, Monsieur Something has been observing me with a very different gaze.
A watchful gaze.
And now he is speaking to me.
What is the purpose of Art? To give us the brief, dazzling illusion of the camellia; to carve from time an emotional aperture that cannot be reduced to animal logic. How is Art born? It is begotten in the mind's ability to sculpt the sensorial domain. What does Art do for us? It gives shape to our emotions, makes them visible and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them, a seal representing all those works that, by means of a particular form, have incarnated the universal nature of human emotions.
... αναλογίζομαι τελικά ότι ίσως αυτό να είναι η ζωή: πολλή απελπισία, αλλά και μερικές στιγμές ομορφιάς, στις οποίες ο χρόνος δεν είναι πια ο ίδιος. Λες και οι νότες της μουσικής έβαλαν μια παρένθεση στον χρόνο, μια αναστολή, ένα αλλού ακόμη και εδώ, ένα πάντα μέσα στο ποτέ.
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Disambiguation notice
Original title: L'élégance du hérisson
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society s expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this façade lies the real Renée: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renée lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
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No descriptions found.

The lives of fifty-four-year-old concierge Rene Michel and extremely bright, suicidal twelve-year-old Paloma Josse are transformed by the arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu.

(summary from another edition)

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