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The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006)

by Muriel Barbery

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,408611497 (3.79)2 / 899
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.
  1. 161
    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)
  3. 64
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (cransell)
  4. 20
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (krist_ellis, tinyteaspoon)
    tinyteaspoon: Strong young female protagonist
  5. 64
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (lauranav)
    lauranav: Both show relationships and point of view of a young girl.
  6. 10
    The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (heterotopic)
  7. 10
    Seven Fires of Mademoiselle by Esther Vilar (sanddancer)
  8. 10
    The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (camillahoel)
  9. 00
    Margherita Dolce Vita by Stefano Benni (Nickelini)
  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.
  11. 00
    The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Péju (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Both are modern French novels written by philosophy teachers, both protagonists are awkward and isolated, both authors mask their sentimentality with a calm tone and both remind us that pedestrians should look each way before crossing a road.
  12. 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.
  13. 00
    The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Of no earthly relevance to the Barbery except that the death of the author lies behind the other author's death scene. Comment dit-on 'Look both ways before you cross' en français?
  14. 01
    Chocolat by Joanne Harris (hildretha)
  15. 26
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (tandah)
  16. 18
    The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (albavirtual)
    albavirtual: Una historia oscura e intrigante y, al mismo tiempo, llena de profundas reflexiones sobre la risa, el arte y la libertad del hombre.

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English (496)  Spanish (31)  French (25)  Italian (25)  German (9)  Finnish (7)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (5)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (610)
Showing 1-5 of 496 (next | show all)
A French concierge and a precocious 12-year old girl become friends, both finding the other intellectually interesting while both also hide their intellect from the world. Another unlikely friend, a wealthy Japanese businessman, moves into the building and recognizes that these women aren't what they seem. The characters are vivid, the story is charming and funny. ( )
  dcvance | May 4, 2021 |
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
By Muriel Barbery
2008, Europa Editions
Paperback, 325pp

"Art is life, playing to other rhythms."

Beautiful! The contrapuntal form of Paloma's two parallel journals and the first-person-present narrative (and mostly inner monologue) of Renée propel the reader through a stunning gossamer of elevated consciousness grappling with itself. There were moments that reminded me of Sergio De La Pava's ability to extract the comical from the mundane, and there were flourishes of poetic rapture that recalled the best of Annie Dillard. Barbery sets before herself the biggest question and approaches it with a poise and elegance that is rare in this century. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Renee is a concierge who has a secret - she's an astute autodidact who would rather read a book and enjoy art in all its forms than watch the TV all day. Keeping the secret from all at the apartment complex but her good friend, Manuela, her life is upended when someone new buys an apartment. Meanwhile, a hyper-intelligent 12-year-old girl has decided that life isn't worth living and she's killing herself on June 16, but she nonetheless keeps records of profound thoughts and more in her journals in case she discovers something that will make her rethink her philosophy.

I am usually a fan of character-driven books told in multiple perspectives, and I think if I had encountered this book when I had not been dealing with a pandemic for 13 months, I would have loved it more. As it was, it was very hard for me to get into because all of the lengthy sentences and philosophical meanderings of the two protagonists took a lot of mental capacity I didn't always have at the end of the day. Even so, I found myself won over by them both and cried at the end. ( )
  bell7 | Apr 28, 2021 |
  18cran | Apr 25, 2021 |
I give this a solid "meh." I wanted to like it, but I ended up listening to it on double and then triple speed just so I could finish it. I do love stories about "found" families, and this was definitely that, but all too briefly. ( )
  jlweiss | Apr 23, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 496 (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 (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbery, MurielAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Öjerskog, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, AlisonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andersson, KerstinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balžalorsky, VarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bonaiuto, AnnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borger, EduTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caillat, EmmanuelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cardoso, ElisaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christov, PetrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Company Gimeno, SalvadorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enqvist, HelénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ergüden, IşıkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
陳春琴Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farkas, KikoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freire d'Aguiar, RosaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
González-Gallarza, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Κολαΐτη, ΡίταTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, Kjell OlavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koff, IndrekTÕlkijasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kokkin, JanneMedarb.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krüger, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindblad, SiljeReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meilahti, Sanna-ReetaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mikkin, DanKujundajasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poli, CinziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Provily, PhilipCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ragnisco, EmanueleDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rohrwacher, AlbaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenblat, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saar, AntiToimetajasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tótfalusi, ÁgnesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thalbach, AnnaSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thalbach, KatharinaSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torcal García, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viitanen, Anna-Maija(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waals, Tessa van derCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zehnder, GabrielaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zorec, MetkaTranslatorsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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