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L'eleganza del riccio by Muriel Barbery

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

by Muriel Barbery

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,205532382 (3.8)2 / 835
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 (431)  Spanish (28)  French (25)  Italian (23)  German (10)  Finnish (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (539)
Showing 1-25 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.”
“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 |

Life through the eyes of a smart, lonely 12 year old and those of the concierge of the Parisian building where she lives with her rich and clueless parents.

Reading this beautifully written book is a most enjoyable experience.

( )
  CarmenFerreiro | Mar 28, 2016 |
This book is about perfect. The contrast between, Renee and Paloma, worldy-wise vs book-smart, was very well done. The author could have made this over the top, with Renee being the miserly concierge and Paloma being the bratty know it all (which she is), but these two characters are much deeper, and as you read through the book the characters are explained, but also grow.

This book could have been very pretentious, but I give credit to Ms. Barbery and her translator, to capture the essence of being an elite person in Paris, without the snobbery that is so often depicted. This is a hard line to follow. As a result, all the characters, are more than one dimensional. Its a rare feat for an author.

The building that both characters live is for well-off people, but giving Renee the concierge, who observes everything but says little, a voice makes the residents human. Renee will equally make a comment about the vices of the residents, but she sees it with a kindness and understands that there is more to the people who live in her building that meets the eye. People are shades of gray to Renee.

Paloma, on the other hand, who also see's everything, but says little, doesn't see shades of gray. But she is eleven years old and is very smart. Her comments are often the same as Renee's, but without the understanding of experience. As a reader, I wasn't entirely sure how accurate Paloma's scathing observations of her family and the residents of the building were.

There is a lot to this book. I suspect that each time I read it, I will find more things to love about it. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Mar 26, 2016 |
Udovica u pedesetim godinama, kućepaziteljica Renee skriva svoj pravi identitet, glumi prosječnu i neobrazovanu ženu, koja jede prosječnu hranu za siromašne i gleda televiziju. Ne želi se odati svojim stanarima, ima razrađen cijeli sustav signalizacija prema kojemu zna da netko prolazi ispred njezinoga stana pa tako ima jedan tv na kojemu gleda DVD-e u svojoj sobi, a drugi u hodniku - za uši prolaznika. Zapravo sluša Mahlera, čita, itd. Ističe kako je upečatljivo ružna. Mislila je stoga da se nikada neće udati i vjerovala je da će biti redovnica. Čak je kasnije i supruga pitala kako to da ju je htio za ženu, s obzirom na njezin izgled.
"Sa suzama u očima rastapam se pred čudesima Umjetnosti dok televizor u predsoblju, jamstvo moje tajnosti, da ga ja i ne čujem, hropće bezumnosti za mozgove ljigavaca." :-D (14)
O životu: ".... mladost u pokušajima da svoju inteligenciju učiniš rentabilnom, da iscijediš svoje studijsko blago kao limun i osiguraš si elitnu poziciju, a poslije toga cijeli život da se zaprepašteno pitaš zašto su te tolike nade dovele do takoisprazne egzistencije. Ljudi misle da idu za zvijezdama, a završe kao crvene ribice u staklenom bokalu." (16) (vjerojatno je trebalo pisati: akvariju/zdjeli).
Tako ova genijalka glumi prosječnost (oponašajući obrasce prosječno inteligentnih ljudi) još od svoje 12-e godine, jer ne želi biti zapažena, a i zabavljaju ju reakcije okoline.

Pripovjedačica, Palome, djevojka iz paralelne priče, shvatila je, kao i Renee, da je život besmislen pa ne želi završiti "u bokalu". Odlučila se stoga ubiti prije 16. rođendana, a dotad će se protiv besmisla boriti zapisujući svaki dan jednu duboku misao.

Renee se druži s Manuelom, koja već 20 godina sprema kuće bogatih, no za nju je ona plemkinja jer plemkinja je "žena izvan dosega prostote, premda je njome okružena." (24)
U Reneeinoj obitelji nije se razgovaralo, tako da je bila jako zbunjena kad joj se u 1. razredu učiteljivca obratila imenom. Naučila je sama čitati prije druge djece. S 12 godina napustila je školu da bi radila, sa 17 se udala.

U zgradu se doseli novi susjed, Japanac, i tu se doznaje da Palome i Renee žive u istoj zgradi jer Japanac (Palome uči japanski pa komunicira s njim) primijeti isto što i Palome - da Renee samo glumi neobrazovanost i sl. Palome je jednom vidjela da joj je iz torbe ispala filozofska studijska literatura. Odluče da će to zajedno istražiti. Palome kaže da Renee ima otmjenost ježa - društvene bodlje izvana, a unutra meka. Kakuro smatra da se Reneein mačak zove Leo po Lavu Tolstoju (točno) i stoga joj pošalje primjerak Ane Karenjine, "u čast njenoga mačka": Renee vidi da je raskrinkana.Kakuro ju pozove i na večeru, gdje ju i pred njom raskrinka i otad ugodno razgovaraju o umjetnosti itd. Kaže da je prvi put stekla prijatelja.

Jednoga dana Colombe, Palomina sestra, pošalje Palomu da umjesto nje traži od Renee da joj u san dostavi jedno pismo koje će za nju stići. Renee isparvno procijeni Palome, kao preozbiljnu i britku, te ju pozove na čaj. Palome i Renee se upoznaju i shvaćaju da su slične - i Palome glumi prosječnost kako bi ju svi pustili na miru. I ona se skriva od ljudi. Palome upita Renee može li se ponekad doći k njoj skloniti od ljudi, Renee potvrdi da može. Na odlasku joj Palome reče da je jako pametna i da je našla dobro sklonište. Druženje Renee i Palome terapijski djeluje na obje. Palome prestaje razmišljati o samoubojstvu. Pita Renee zašto se skriva i Renee joj otkriva kako je njezina sestra Lisette ostala trudna s bogatašem koji ju je napustio, ona je umrla pri porodu, a dijete par sati kasnije. Stoga smatra da se ne smije miješati, ona - Renee iz zabitoga sela, bez formalnoga obrazovanja - s bogatima - "mora znati gdje joj je mjesto ako ne želi da ju snađe nesreća. Stoga odbija i daljnje druženje s Kakurom, ali u razgovoru s Palomom uviđa da je to besmisleno. Paloma "ju izda" Kakurou, pa ju i on uvjeri da ona "nije njezina sestra i da njih dvoje mogu biti što god požele". Sretna je napokon, lijepo im je na zajedničkim izlascima. Napokon je shvatila život, no sljedeći ju dan, dok je pošla pomoći poznaniku klošaru koji je pao pijan na pločnik, udari kombi. Umre s mislima na drage ljude - Manuelu, Palomu, Kakura, supruga pokojnoga. I na mačka. Palome i Kakuro su jako pogođeni. Palome se neće ubiti. ( )
  rosenrot | Mar 22, 2016 |
In The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery the hedgehog is 54-year-old concierge Renee Michel. As described by our second narrator, twelve year old Paloma Josse:
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. pg. 143

Renee describes herself as a short, ugly and plump widow with bunions and no education who is poor, discreet, and insignificant. But privately we know she has hidden her intelligence. She is well read. She has educated herself and satisfied her curiosity about literature, art, music, and philosophy. Her one friend is Manuela, a Portuguese cleaning lady who stops by for tea each day.

Unknown to her in the beginning is that there is another very intelligent resident of the building: twelve and a half year old Paloma Josse. Paloma is despairing of her lot in life as a privileged member of society and plans to commit suicide when she turns thirteen. Before she does, however, she is secretly writing two journals: Profound Thoughts and Journal of the Movement of the World.

Both Renee and Paloma have chosen to isolate themselves from the world and hide their true potential. Thoughts of both are shared in the first person. The novel alternates between the two voices. While they are distinct, and Paloma's journal entries are titled and numbered, alternate type faces are used to further set a distinction between the two narrators. A new resident in the building brings these two together and opens up new possibilities in their lives beyond their isolation and despair for society.

Author Muriel Barbery is a philosopher and teacher at the Ecole Normale Superiore, in Paris, which explains much of the novels copious contemplation of philosophy. At times it may verge on dissuading you from the fundamental narrative - but stick with it. These are two isolated people who desperately want to connect to someone else even though they are blind to this need. I found the writing insightful and deserving of the many accolades The Elegance of the Hedgehog received when it was first published.

Very Highly Recommended

Quote on grammar:
Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty. When you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you've said or read or written a fine sentence. You can recognize a well-turned phrase or an elegant style. But when you are applying the rules of grammar skillfully, you ascend to another level of the beauty of language. When you use grammar you peel back the layers, to see how it is all put together, see it quite naked, in a way. And that's where it becomes wonderful, because you say to yourself, "Look how well-made this is, how well-constructed it is! How solid and ingenious, rich and subtle!" pg. 158
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
One of the very few novels I will read more than once. ( )
  chumofchance | Mar 17, 2016 |
Wonderful story. Concierge of apartment building for the wealthy, in her fifties; girl of 11 -- both intelligent and interesting and kind people. Wealthy Japanese man comes in to the story later and is also intel., int. and kind. Wonderful philosophical references. Had me consulting the Internet to find out more about them. ( )
  DaneeM13 | Mar 14, 2016 |
Beautiful! ( )
  Jennie.Cole | Feb 24, 2016 |
As several others have stated, this book gets more engaging as you get deeper into it, and probably should be read while alert. It really is beautiful, although it took some extra effort for it to grow on me.
  becca.b | Feb 19, 2016 |
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 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 |
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