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L'eleganza del riccio by Muriel Barbery
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L'eleganza del riccio (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Muriel Barbery

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,065523398 (3.8)2 / 829
L'eleganza del riccio è un libro apparentemente semplice che cela diversi livelli di lettura. Il primo, superficiale, ha portato alcuni a disprezzarlo e altri a fraintenderlo. Eppure non c'è snobismo o pedanteria, non c'è intenzione di sminuire il lettore e di ridurlo a spettatore ignaro e passivo.
Certamente lo studio della filosofia aiuta a comprendere alcni passaggi in maniera più completa, giacché la Barbery ha la tendenza di esporre le proprie istanze filosofiche per bocca delle sue protagoniste che a volte sembrano la personificazione dell'autrice più che il loro personaggio.
Il succo però è che la Barbery vuole sottolineare come la cultura sia alla portata di tutti, se si ha la volontà di perseguirla, e non solo appannaggio di accademici paludati. Non è quindi snobismo, tutt'altro. Anzi dietro alle persone più insospettabili può celarsi una persona colta.
Forte quindi è il tema della maschera assunta dalle due protagoniste. Una si cela sotto l'apparenza dello stereotipo più classico della portinaia, sciatta e ignorante, dedita alla televisione e non troppo sveglia. All'altra, una dodicenne assai precoce, il gioco riesce più difficile in quanto celare la propria intelligenza, ridurla a standard normali è impossibile.
Questo porta Paloma alla constatazione della mediocrità della propria famiglia e combattuta tra la sua maturità mentale e il classico disagio adolescenziale, decide di farla finita portando con sé le certezze materiali dei mediocri genitori.
A svelare entrambe non a casa sarà un ricco e colto giapponese. La maschera infatti è un tema dominante della società nipponica.
Saranno quest'ultimo e Reneè la portinaia a introdurre Paloma a un mondo diverso.
La narrazione è divisa tra le voci delle due donne, l'una in prima persona, l'altra sotto forma di diario. Il risultato è un romanzo ricco di significati e di delicate sensazioni che si legge d'un fiato. ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
English (419)  Spanish (28)  French (25)  Italian (23)  German (10)  Finnish (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (527)
Showing 1-25 of 419 (next | show all)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

★★★★ ½ ♥

First thing I noticed – I could not read this book when tired. The ramblings, especially of Renee often just left me confused if I was already falling asleep. With that being said, when I was awake and lucid to this world, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the difference in class lines and ages of the main characters and how regardless of that they are practically one-in-the-same.

When I first started this book, I wasn’t too thrilled. I had trouble getting into it and sometimes the philosophical thoughts went over my head. But as the story continued, I realllllllly got into the characters. I absolutely adored Renee, Paloma, and later on Kakuro and how they all grew in different ways, regardless of whether they were 54 years old or 12 years old. So much to learn. And towards the end, I started really soaking in the book and its words. The ending surprised me and I found myself crying through the last 50 pages of the story, absorbed into it all so much. This is a rare case where I book went from mediocre for me with a 3 star rating and quickly raised towards the end, becoming a favorite for me. I am glad I stuck through the beginning to get to the meat of this beautiful book – another one for me to just soak in for awhile.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
★ ★ ★

Audio was done by Cassandra Morris and Barbara Rosenblat .
They provided a good, fast paced presentation and were pleasant to the ear.

It was just one of those reads that I deviate from the general positive reaction.
There seemed to have been many noteworthy thoughts but I had a hard time
maintaining the interest level that the author deserves.
-------------

But, yes, it did have a significant ending. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 31, 2016 |
The first half is slow. I did enjoy the second half. The book gives the reader a lot to ponder. ( )
  Cricket856 | Jan 25, 2016 |
This is surely on of my favourite books for this year - I was captivated by the characters, the writing and the themes. I couldn't put it down, although the ending was perhaps not what I would have hoped for. It's a deeply moving, very funny story which shows you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Glorious! Language is art. ( )
  TallReads | Jan 21, 2016 |
I ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
I ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Renee Michell, concierge at a building of exclusive homes for the wealthy, hides her brilliance behind her short, squat, ugly body and a mask of intellectual dullness, convinced that this is how things need to be. Paloma, younger daughter of residents there, also hides her brilliant intellect and secretly plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday to escape the meaningless darkness of life and set fire to the family apartment to spite her family who don't give her a moment's peace to think unless she hides. Enter Ozu, a bright, thinking, wealthy Japanese man who purchases an apartment upon the death of its owner, who not only sees past the masks Paloma and Renee wear, but also befriends Renee and helps the two of them connect.

The book is not only very well written, but it has also been translated to retain beauty and nuance of language that captures the philosophical flavour of the novel in a different language. However, it is becoming increasingly irritating to read books where anyone who is hyper-intelligent just "knows" that there is nothing but what we can see, similar to existentialism or authenticity, and that other thought is inherently weaker. It's blatantly inaccurate to conclude that this is the end of all intelligent, deep thought; there are hyper-intelligent, deep thinking people who come to vastly different conclusions. One might argue that these are just the characters and not the author speaking, but in this case I highly doubt it given that Barbery is a professor of philosophy. A great, and I suspect unwitting, irony of this book is the self-fulfilling fear/prophecy that Renee has about what will happen if she steps out of intellectual hiding and makes a friend out of her class. The ending for Paloma is much more believable and works in the novel's favour. Therefore, despite the brilliant use of language, the with, and some lovely scenes, I am giving this book a 3 for lack of intellectual originality and a bit of a rushed ending. ( )
  Karin7 | Jan 20, 2016 |
This book was divine, is divine. The intelligence and perception of the author, the depth of the characters, and the eloquence of the humor, knowledge, and heartbreak contained is breathtaking. ( )
  lemotamant898 | Jan 18, 2016 |
I wanted to like this book. The main characters are quiet, intelligent introverts. This should have reminded me of Amelie, one of my favorite movies. But Amelie, at its heart, believed that most people had something to offer the world. "Hedgehog" believes that most people are part of the mindless masses, except for the chosen (read: intelligent) few.

The main characters, a brainy 12-year-old girl and a 50-something woman, hide their abilities, then scoff at everyone for falling for their ruse. They complain about the snobbishness of the rich...while looking down on them. They feel lonely...because they hate everyone. The author was trying to show their inner beauty, but it felt more like inner ugliness.

I can appreciate some of the themes in this book--that we often don't use our abilities to their full potential, that people can have hidden depths, that pessimism can turn you down the wrong path. But those messages were destroyed by the constant, acid rain of Paloma and Renee's sneering contempt. ( )
  Malora | Jan 18, 2016 |
Parts of this were wonderful, but....in other parts I had a hard time with the snobbery and stuckness of the two main characters, unable to see other perspectives. I'm also not as into philosophy as the main character.

(I'm listening on CD.) ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
This book was divine, is divine. The intelligence and perception of the author, the depth of the characters, and the eloquence of the humor, knowledge, and heartbreak contained is breathtaking. ( )
  motavant | Jan 17, 2016 |
This book was not my favorite, but I'm glad I read it. I had heard that it was a little different, and it certainly was! Lots of philosophy discussions, which are not my forte.
It is set in a Paris apartment building, the main characters being the concierge of the building & a precocious 12-yr-old girl who also lives in the building. They are both trying to find their places in this world, and, in the end, they do. So, again, I'm glad I read it because I'd heard so much about it, and the story really is pretty good. But it's just not my favorite. ( )
  TerriS | Jan 17, 2016 |
The story alternates between the confessions of two women: Renée Michel, a lonely 54-year-old concierge in a Parisian block of luxury apartments, and Paloma Josse, a precocious 12-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the wealthy families in the house. Paloma loves to read Manga, has decided that life is meaningless, and is making plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. Renée loves Japanese cinema, Dutch masterpieces, Tolstoy, and is a devotee of classical music. She thinks life will be easier if she never lets her knowledge show and just wants to be left alone. Renée and Paloma are drawn together when one of the upstairs tenants dies. A cultured Japanese man takes the apartment and shares Paloma's fascination with Renée. They agree she is not quite what she seems to be. They decide that the concierge has “the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant.”

Both Renée and Paloma skewer the class-conscious people in the building and such resolves some issues of life and death for its characters. Especially in the novel’s early stretch, Barbery, a professor of philosophy, turns her brief chapters into essays rather than readable fiction, but she also carefully builds in explanations for the literary and philosophical references .

At first I didn't care for this book. I found it a bit pretentious filled with arrogant characters and long boring philosophical stretches of pontification. But I stuck to it, especially given the sublime narration of Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris. I was laughing out loud at many of the very humorous observations they make. Once I got past the first quarter of the book, I realized it was a wonderful story that reminds me to treasure the moments of beauty we find in our lives. It's not the book for everyone but if you feel like investing some time in a relationship with this wonderful cast of characters I think you'll enjoy it.

When I was done I also rented the French film (English subtitles), The Hedgehog, which is also excellent. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
“I may be indigent in name, position, and appearance, but in my own mind I am an unrivaled goddess.” Renée Michel

Meet Renée Michel, concierge at 7, rue de Grenelle, a small and elegant apartment building in Paris. The building houses eight families, all in the upper tier of Parisian/French society. Madame Michel, a widow, who has been in her position for the past 27 years. Renée does her best to not draw attention to herself and to project the image that the residents of the building expect of a concierge. In other words, Madame Michel creates an image or caricature of herself as the stereotypical concierge--poorly educated, unintelligent, dull, and bland. But when we see inside her lodge (apartment) we see another side of this complex woman; we see a woman who is self-educated in a wide variety of subjects. She glories in Japanese art and culture, Dutch artists, Tolstoy, and Mozart. But most of all, she is enthralled with beauty

Paloma Josse is a precocious twelve year-old who lives with her parents, Maman or Solange (a Ph.D. in Literature) and Papa, a Parlimentarian and former government minister, as well as her sister Colombe, a grad student. Paloma is extremely intelligent, but like Renée, Paloma hides her true self from those around her; she plays down her intelligence and tries hard just to fit in. Paloma often finds herself at odds with both her parents and her sister, who she holds in disdain for what she considers their vacuous, frivolous, and clichéd lifestyle. Paloma is ultimately searching for herself, but moreover, she is looking for some reason to believe not only in others but for carrying on. Paloma has determined that she will commit suicide on her 13th birthday, but before she does, she will record her thoughts in her Journal of Profound Thoughts that we, as readers, become privy to.

At first, I wasn't sure what to think of this book. It took me much longer than I anticipated to get into it, and because I had seen so many positive and glowing reviews of it, I kept wondering when the book was going to pick up and really grab me. We, as readers, come to know Renée and Paloma, who have very little interaction throughout most of the text, through alternating chapters, and we see the other residents of 7, rue de Grenelle through their eyes. At first, I wasn't sure that actually liked either of the central characters, Renée and Paloma. I found them each a bit self-absorbed and self-indulgent in their criticisms of the upper class of Parisian society. But as I read on, the book picked-up pace, and the more I read, the more the characters grew on me. I soon became absorbed in the lives of these two characters and their view of those around them. Barbery's prose and sketching all the characters, but especially these two, was rich and, quite frankly, simply beautiful.

Then, Mr. Kakuro Ozu enters the story when he purchases the 4th floor apartment from the family of a deceased resident. Mr. Ozu sees through the masks that both Paloma and Renée wear and befriends both of them. As he does, the lives of Paloma and Renée begin to intertwine and we see both of them grow and change, often in ways that neither we, as readers, or they could predict. We are entertained with a series of events that are hilarious, touching, heart-warming, and sometimes, heart-wrenching. We also begin to see the other residents through a third set of eyes. While I was already absorbed with Renée and Paloma, when Kakuro entered the story, I simply did not want to put the book down because he brought another dimension to the text and Barbery's prose. The writing seemed to take on more depth with the introduction of this character who brought out the complexities of the other characters.

I found myself not wanting the book to end. I wanted the burgeoning friendships among Kakuro, Renée, and Paloma to simply go on. And when the end came, it was both unexpected and slightly shocking. I think I'm still processing the ending because I find myself strangely satisfied with ending in that I thought it was fitting for the overall text but also disappointed that the book ended the way that it did.

Overall, I found this to be a beautiful exploration of the characters and human behavior. Barbery's prose is beautifully crafted in a way that I found certain lines haunted me throughout the reading and stuck with me after I closed the book. ( )
  slpwhitehead | Jan 17, 2016 |
Renee is the concierge at a very upscale apartment building in Paris. She is extremely intelligent and has taught herself as much as she can about subjects like philosophy, literature, film, art, and culture. For the tenants of the building, these interests would be unacceptable in a concierge, so Renee perfectly acts the part of the stereotype they believe her to be: an uneducated peasant. Paloma is a twelve-year-old girl whose family lives in the building. She is also extremely intelligent, but attempts to act like an average teenager. She has decided to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday because she is fed up with the world around her. When a new tenant moves into the building, he sees through both of them, brings them together, and changes their lives.

Nothing much really happens in this book as far as the plot goes. Many of the chapters consist of either Renee or Paloma ranting about philosophical matters and how ignorant the rest of the world is. This got old after a while. While both characters were super-intelligent, intelligence is useless unless it is put to some positive purpose, and neither of them understood that. For the most part, I was bored with the book, although there were parts that were decent. I did like the way the typeface changed with the author switched between narrators as it made it really easy to tell who was speaking. Overall, I don't get why this book has gotten so much hype. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
“I may be indigent in name, position, and appearance, but in my own mind I am an unrivaled goddess.” Renée Michel

Meet Renée Michel, concierge at 7, rue de Grenelle, a small and elegant apartment building in Paris. The building houses eight families, all in the upper tier of Parisian/French society. Madame Michel, a widow, who has been in her position for the past 27 years. Renée does her best to not draw attention to herself and to project the image that the residents of the building expect of a concierge. In other words, Madame Michel creates an image or caricature of herself as the stereotypical concierge--poorly educated, unintelligent, dull, and bland. But when we see inside her lodge (apartment) we see another side of this complex woman; we see a woman who is self-educated in a wide variety of subjects. She glories in Japanese art and culture, Dutch artists, Tolstoy, and Mozart. But most of all, she is enthralled with beauty

Paloma Josse is a precocious twelve year-old who lives with her parents, Maman or Solange (a Ph.D. in Literature) and Papa, a Parlimentarian and former government minister, as well as her sister Colombe, a grad student. Paloma is extremely intelligent, but like Renée, Paloma hides her true self from those around her; she plays down her intelligence and tries hard just to fit in. Paloma often finds herself at odds with both her parents and her sister, who she holds in disdain for what she considers their vacuous, frivolous, and clichéd lifestyle. Paloma is ultimately searching for herself, but moreover, she is looking for some reason to believe not only in others but for carrying on. Paloma has determined that she will commit suicide on her 13th birthday, but before she does, she will record her thoughts in her Journal of Profound Thoughts that we, as readers, become privy to.

At first, I wasn't sure what to think of this book. It took me much longer than I anticipated to get into it, and because I had seen so many positive and glowing reviews of it, I kept wondering when the book was going to pick up and really grab me. We, as readers, come to know Renée and Paloma, who have very little interaction throughout most of the text, through alternating chapters, and we see the other residents of 7, rue de Grenelle through their eyes. At first, I wasn't sure that actually liked either of the central characters, Renée and Paloma. I found them each a bit self-absorbed and self-indulgent in their criticisms of the upper class of Parisian society. But as I read on, the book picked-up pace, and the more I read, the more the characters grew on me. I soon became absorbed in the lives of these two characters and their view of those around them. Barbery's prose and sketching all the characters, but especially these two, was rich and, quite frankly, simply beautiful.

Then, Mr. Kakuro Ozu enters the story when he purchases the 4th floor apartment from the family of a deceased resident. Mr. Ozu sees through the masks that both Paloma and Renée wear and befriends both of them. As he does, the lives of Paloma and Renée begin to intertwine and we see both of them grow and change, often in ways that neither we, as readers, or they could predict. We are entertained with a series of events that are hilarious, touching, heart-warming, and sometimes, heart-wrenching. We also begin to see the other residents through a third set of eyes. While I was already absorbed with Renée and Paloma, when Kakuro entered the story, I simply did not want to put the book down because he brought another dimension to the text and Barbery's prose. The writing seemed to take on more depth with the introduction of this character who brought out the complexities of the other characters.

I found myself not wanting the book to end. I wanted the burgeoning friendships among Kakuro, Renée, and Paloma to simply go on. And when the end came, it was both unexpected and slightly shocking. I think I'm still processing the ending because I find myself strangely satisfied with ending in that I thought it was fitting for the overall text but also disappointed that the book ended the way that it did.

Overall, I found this to be a beautiful exploration of the characters and human behavior. Barbery's prose is beautifully crafted in a way that I found certain lines haunted me throughout the reading and stuck with me after I closed the book. ( )
  slpwhitehead | Jan 16, 2016 |
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
5 Stars
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is French novelist and professor of philosophy, Muriel Barbery’s second novel. It revolves around the lives of 12 year-old Paloma, a lonely and misunderstood genius, and Renée, a concierge in an upper class apartment complex. Both protagonists try to mask their intelligence and feel out of place in their respective worlds. The chapters alternate between the two characters, with Paloma’s sections being written as journal entries. Paloma is writing her “profound” thoughts as she plans to kill herself on her 13th birthday. Their lives change when a new tenant moves into the building. The book is packed with philosophical musings and literary references.

I loved this book, but it is not a book that will appeal to everybody. I am sure some people will think that this book is pretentious, or will struggle with the heavy amounts of philosophy. For me it was a beautifully written and touching book. The story develops slowly and is filled with philosophical musings about the meaning of life, art, beauty, and intelligence. I loved the gradual build-up to the bittersweet ending that made me cry and smile simultaneously. I also loved the numerous literary references (Proust, Tolstoy, etc.) (but I can see how these references could be irritating if you haven’t read them). My thoughts about the book mirror the opinion on the book jacket that states, “this is a moving, witty, and redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.”

Favorite quotes:
The camellia against the moss of the temple, the violet hues of the Kyoto mountains, a blue porcelain cup – the sudden flowering of pure beauty at the heart of ephemeral passion: is this not something we all aspire to? And something that, in our Western civilization, we do not know how to attain?

Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she’s covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary – and terribly elegant.

Does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance? Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying.

“They didn’t recognize me, “ I repeat. He stops in turn, my hand still on his arm. “It is because they have never seen you,” he says. “I would recognize you anywhere.”

( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
I absolutely adored this book, it explored the hidden lives of a concierge and a 12 year old girl living in the same building in France.

I enjoyed the stereotypical characters the progression from light hearted observation to human involvement and finally tragedy.

I found the use of language delightful and would recommend this book. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
4½ ****
In the center of Paris sits an elegant apartment building with a typical concierge – she is middle-aged, frumpy, fat and cantankerous. Or so everyone thinks. For Madam Renee Michel plays her role to perfection, portraying the concierge the residents expect to see, while, in fact, she is a lover of art, literature, philosophy and Japanese culture. One tenant who is not completely blind is 12-year-old Paloma Josse, the youngest daughter of one of the wealthy residents (they have the entire 5th floor). She’s incredibly bright (a genius, in fact), but hides her talents so as to fit in and not gain attention of the adults in her life. She portrays herself as a typical pre-teen, interested in teen subculture. But her keen sensibilities have led her to a decision – she will end her life on her 13th birthday.

What forces both these characters to reconsider their roles and reveal more of their own true selves is the arrival of a new resident – a wealthy Japanese man named Kakuro Ozu. He is a fan of Tolstoy, a lover of art, and he seeks to really know both Renee and Paloma, rather than to just accept the portrait they portray.

Paloma and Renee take turns narrating the novel. Both expound on philosophy, beauty and the meaning of life. Their thoughts and revelations are in turns funny, contemplative and even heart-breaking. The two actresses performing the alternating roles are spot on perfect. Barbara Rosenblat gives us a refined, controlled (though sometimes flustered) Madam Renee Michel. You can really picture Renee just by hearing Rosenblat’s voice. And Cassandra Morris offers a perfectly young, precociously intelligent Paloma Josse. I’m really happy the producers of the audio chose to use two different readers for these two different (yet similar) characters.

I found the beginning of the book slow-going, however. Mr Ozu doesn’t appear until half-way through, and his introduction into the mix is the catalyst for movement in the plot. I also found it harder to connect with Paloma – perhaps because of her pre-adolescent angst. But Renee? Oh, my! I would read her chapters over and over and over again. I loved Madam Renee Michel. The result is that I would give the book 4 stars, and the audio performances 5 stars, averaging to 4½ ****.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Not too enamored of this one. ( )
  Lindoula | Dec 27, 2015 |
Fantastic book!

I wasn't too sure at the beginning how I liked flipping between two different character's voice but it worked out very well and was very easy to tell who was "speaking".

The ending was not what I was expecting but it underlined the meaning of the book so well (I'm not saying what I thought it was because I think it may be different for each person). ( )
  oraclejenn | Dec 15, 2015 |
Pariisilaisen hienostotalon sivystyneeksi paljastuva ovenvartijarouva Renée Michel ja yläluokkaisen perheen turhautunut ja itsemurhaa hautova tytär Paloma Josse ystävystyvät monen mutkan kautta. Molemmat saavat toisistaan yllättävän paljon sisältöä yksitoikkoiseen elämäänsä. Kirjassa oli kirjailijan taustan ymmärtäen paljon filosofista nippelitietoa ja aiheen käsittelyä, omaan makuuni liikaa. Osittain juuri se etäännytti henklöhahmoihin keskittymiseltä, joten kirjaan perustuvan elokuvan ensin nähneenä ja siitä vaikuttuneena kirja oli tunnetasolla pettymys.
  Ainop | Dec 15, 2015 |
LOVE THIS BOOK!!! Very cerebral. ( )
  168 | Dec 6, 2015 |
The New York Times Book Review's brief synopsis of this book says something like, "A young girl and her building concierge's unlikely friendship".

This is a gross misrepresentation of this wonderful book. It is really the story of two people, one 12, one 54 who have given up on life because everyone around them is an idiot.

These two are highly developed intellects with a particular common obsession of grammer and syntax. Most of the book they tell seperate stories from eachother, until. Until into their lives walks a kindred spirit in the form of a Japanese man who does not buy into the French class system's rules.

That's really when the story takes off. Prior to that it is entertaining and challenging. After his introduction, the story really takes hold of what the message is. What is the purpose of our lives? It is friendship and love of all kinds. ( )
2 vote stacykurko | Oct 29, 2015 |
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