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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel…
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The Elegance of the Hedgehog (original 2006; edition 2008)

by Muriel Barbery, Alison Anderson (Translator)

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8,192532382 (3.8)2 / 835
Member:Jane59
Title:The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Authors:Muriel Barbery
Other authors:Alison Anderson (Translator)
Info:Europa Editions (2008), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2006)

  1. 151
    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. 63
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (lauranav)
    lauranav: Both show relationships and point of view of a young girl.
  3. 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)
  4. 53
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  5. 10
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    tinyteaspoon: Strong young female protagonist
  9. 00
    Lovesong by Alex Miller (jll1976)
    jll1976: There is the obvious 'Paris connection'. But, also a similar slow almost dreamlike quality. About the beauty of a 'simple' life.
  10. 00
    The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers (klerulo)
    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 (431)  Spanish (28)  French (25)  Italian (23)  German (10)  Finnish (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (539)
Showing 1-5 of 431 (next | show all)
A moving, sometimes witty novel of life in an apartment building in Paris and the residents who,in their secret lonely world live there.
A fairy tale of a story.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher Gallic Books via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review. ( )
  Welsh_eileen2 | Apr 26, 2016 |
At first, I thought I was going to hate this book, but I was intrigued and it was a book club book, so I stuck with it (plus, I picked it at pitch!). I ended up very charmed by the hedgehog and I loved the writing and references. I also found this little fictional book a thought provoking commentary on our society, including today's youth. I find myself wondering whether Madame Hedgehog had a self-fulfilling destiny or was it chance? And what about it all gave Paloma hope? ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
I'm starting to feel like everything I read is a 3! I would actually rate this a 3.5. I had such a hard time getting into this, there is so much in the book that really doesn't move the story forward. Then, too, I had a problem with a concierge that despised the people she worked for because they looked down their noses at her even as she went to great pains to be exactly the type of person they would look down their noses at. In the end, I understood that a little better; I have to say I really liked the last 100 pages of this book. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
I'm starting to feel like everything I read is a 3! I would actually rate this a 3.5. I had such a hard time getting into this, there is so much in the book that really doesn't move the story forward. Then, too, I had a problem with a concierge that despised the people she worked for because they looked down their noses at her even as she went to great pains to be exactly the type of person they would look down their noses at. In the end, I understood that a little better; I have to say I really liked the last 100 pages of this book. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Renee Marchel is a 54 year old woman who is the concierge of an upper-crust apartment building in France. We are introduced to Renee in all her self-described frumpiness as she tells us:

“I am a widow, I am short, ugly, and plump, I have bunions on my feet and, if I am to credit certain early mornings of self-inflicted disgust, the breath of a mammoth. I did not go to college; I have always been poor, discreet, and insignificant. I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any special effort to take part in the social doings of our respective species.”

But there is so much more to Renee. She is also interested in philosophy, art, literature, music, foreign films, and the Japanese tea ritual among other things. She prefers to hide her cultured tastes behind society’s stereotypes for her class because she knows that no matter what she will never fit in. Renee’s best friend is Manuela, the Portuguese maid for most of the building’s residents. With Manuela she is able to share some of her inner joys and be more herself. But the rest of the world is kept at a discreet distance.

Paloma Josse is a highly intelligent 12 year old who lives with her well-to-do parents in one of the apartments. She works hard to make sure the world around her doesn’t have any idea how intelligent she really is. Paloma loves to hide away from the world, reading manga, and journaling about her philosophy on life, and the human condition. She believes adults are always foolishly striving to be adult, when they really have no idea what life’s all about and how to get along in the world. As she writes in her journal:

“Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is, is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe. Once you become an adult and you realize that's not true, it's too late.”
and
“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”

Paloma sees the world around her as cruel and ugly, and she plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday.

Both Renee and Paloma encase themselves in a public persona that hides their true identities. Their observations on those around them are so intuitive yet they are not sure what to make of the world. Neither of them feels that they would be accepted for who they truly are. A very interesting look at the metaphorical hedgehog that I believe exists in all of us to some degree.

When a long-time resident of the apartment building dies, a new resident moves in. Kakuro Ozu is a cultured Japanese businessman whom everyone is immediately curious about. Upon arrival, Kakuro immediately sees behind the facade of Renee and he watches her carefully. He knows she shares a passion for Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and he approaches her about it. Renee is very put out that Kakuro can see through her “outer spines” as it were, and she doesn’t know how to react.

As friendships blossom between these three, Renee and Paloma begin to see more beauty in the world around them.and they start to imagine what role they might play in that world.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this book at first and it really took me quite some time to get into it. I was put off by all the cynicism that both Renee and Paloma exhibited. Perhaps because I have enough of my own! It’s not a comforting book, but it had definite moments of beauty. For me it was a book that very slowly crept in, and I found myself changing my mind and thinking “this is good, this is really getting good,” then the end comes along and it really smacks you in the face! My initial reaction was to give the book 3 stars, however the more I think about it, the more I like it. I may be thinking about this one for quite some time. ( )
2 vote sherribelcher | Mar 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 431 (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.
 
Efter en något trög första del, förvandlades Igelkottens elegans till en liten pärla, till en bok som berörde mig. Och jag som sällan läser om böcker, funderar skarpt på att läsa om.
 
Därefter blir ”Igelkottens elegans” en fråga om ett ganska enkelt demaskerande och en ännu enklare trivialpsykologisk analys. Men fram till dess skrockar man förnöjt när Renée och Paloma var och en på sitt håll övertrumfar varandra i knivskarpa beskrivningar av den korkade och obildade parisiska överklassen och dess själsliv – tunt som en kålsoppa utan kål.
 

» Add other authors (49 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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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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.
(p.17)
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...'
(p.71)
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.
(p.130)
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.
(p.199)
... 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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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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