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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel…

The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006)

by Muriel Barbery

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,379578495 (3.8)2 / 879
  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. 53
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (cransell)
  4. 64
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley (lauranav)
    lauranav: Both show relationships and point of view of a young girl.
  5. 10
    The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (heterotopic)
  6. 10
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (krist_ellis, tinyteaspoon)
    tinyteaspoon: Strong young female protagonist
  7. 10
    The Seven Fires of Mademoiselle by Esther Vilar (sanddancer)
  8. 10
    The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (camillahoel)
  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 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 quite rightly remind pedestrians to look each way before crossing a road.
  11. 00
    The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Of no earthly relevance to the Barbery except that the death of one author explains the death the other author chose. Comment dit-on 'Look both ways before you cross' en français?
  12. 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.
  13. 01
    Chocolat by Joanne Harris (hildretha)
  14. 16
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (tandah)
  15. 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 (476)  Spanish (29)  French (25)  Italian (24)  German (9)  Finnish (8)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Catalan (5)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (588)
Showing 1-5 of 476 (next | show all)
Why I Stopped Reading: Apparently the author believes that extreme intelligence makes a character sympathetic. This is not so. This is especially not so when said intelligent protagonists bemoan their isolation from all the stupid people of the world while simultaneously flaunting their intelligence to the reader and putting down all those stupid people who don't deserve to know their true selves (but isn't it sad that they're so misunderstood?). Two of the most self-absorbed and unlikable characters I've encountered in quite some time. I know they're going to bond and all before the end (over their shared misunderstood genius of course), but I couldn't care less what happens to either of them.
  AmandaGStevens | Mar 2, 2019 |
I did find this brilliant. A slight breeze of inspiration, peppered with insights and regrets. It was certainly configured for a popular recpetion, but the images remained transportive. I was affected. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Since Thursday the last days were hard for me, mentally speaking. The story began when a writer approached and asked me to read a book she wrote, and that so moved me that I agreed. But during the reading of the book, I got stuck. So I asked her questions by e-mail, and she answered me and was so kind and friendly that I melted away from feeling pity for her book. Now how can I tell her that I do not connect to her book? That the story is lovely, that the writing is fantastic but, it is not my reading style?

In the end, I decided to share it with her and tell her that I can't continue reading right now. The writer smiled at me (well, I do not know if she laughed because it was by email, but that was how I felt). She calmed me down and said that she understands, that not everyone connects to every book and that it was enough to know that I loved the story and the writing style, Yet I felt a moral obligation and published a review accordingly. Not something final but a partial impression of where I came to read. "That's not the full score she was supposed to get," I muttered, looking at the second book I was holding in my hand - The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Yes, I suppose this literary gift had a significant effect on my impatience to read another book, and I fell straight into that trap. It was only on Wednesday, a week ago, that I bought this book and I waited to read it. All weekend it stood there on the shelf, while I read another book and occasionally looked at him. "You evil hedgehog," I whispered again to the cover of the book and immediately returned reading that other book and guilt feelings continue to peck at me until now.

And if so far was my introduction, then now the review itself of the book, because it is a rare pearl of literature, not less and perhaps more. This is a book filled with beauty. It also has sophistication and worship for everything that is beautiful, purified, pure. It is impossible not to like the two women described in it. They are intriguing, fascinating, and not dull for a moment — an in-depth book, smart and moving. Together it organizes a crash course in philosophy and a platonic love story. At the same time, I must warn that the book is not suitable for lovers to read the flow without pausing and clarify meanings of sentences.

The book tells of a concierge building in Paris behind her poor appearance hiding civilized and educated woman. This is a message that repeats itself countless times in the book - 'Do not look at the jar but what is inside it.' The text means that all the rich with the impressive appearance and the cultural mannerisms are ultimately ignorant and miserable, while the concierge looks a straight woman outwardly but inside her is a woman Especially smart and rich cultural world.
Is often described in the Book of Absurd, in that those rich fools are superior to the poor sages.
Sometimes in the book also describes the thoughts (or in the language of the book 'Intensive Thoughts') of a rich and brilliant girl of her age who doesn't find herself in this world.

The book often mentions contempt for Western culture in general and French in particular, in contrast to the great Japanese culture. Reading on the back of the book says that the writer studied in France and now live in Japan, and this is probably the explanation for all the respect written in the book for Japanese culture. Interestingly, another writer could only write about this betrayal, another story.

In any case, I give this book five stars and a warning - do not read the book if philosophy does you bad. ( )
  mazalbracha | Jan 12, 2019 |
I like when a book makes you think. I found the theories mentioned in the book very interesting. Renee and Paloma seem smarter than everyone around them and they are pretty committed to seclusion as a result. Renee is a concierge and feels that she needs to act as people expect a concierge to act. Paloma is a very wealthy teenager and she can't relate to her family at all.

They both spend a lot time alone, philosophizing about life. I would actually be interested to read more about all of the theories and concepts contained in this story.

The only thing that didn't work for me? Oh boy, the ending. My goodness. A good ending is very important to me in a book and I actually feel like the ending worked against something it had taken poor Renee a very long time to learn. ( )
  Mishale1 | Dec 29, 2018 |
I picked this book up simply because of the title. When I finally put it down, I had learned more about myself than in a few years combined. "Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language," says the main character. I pity the people who don't pick up this book or have the love of language to enjoy the beauty within it. ( )
  KatelynSBolds | Nov 12, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 476 (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 (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Muriel Barberyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Öjerskog, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, AlisonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enqvist, HelénTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenblat, BarbaraNarratorsecondary 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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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.

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