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The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006)

by Muriel Barbery

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,665642522 (3.79)2 / 926
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.
Recently added byprivate library, ChrisReisig, t-milts, tatabooks, raycun, Rini55, coreyline
  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. 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.
  3. 31
    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. 21
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (krist_ellis, tinyteaspoon)
    tinyteaspoon: Strong young female protagonist
  5. 10
    The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (heterotopic)
  6. 54
    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (cransell)
  7. 10
    Seven Fires of Mademoiselle by Esther Vilar (sanddancer)
  8. 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 is the death chosen by this author. Comment dit-on 'Look both ways before you cross' en français?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 11
    The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (camillahoel)
  12. 01
    Chocolat by Joanne Harris (hildretha)
  13. 01
    Margherita Dolce Vita by Stefano Benni (Nickelini)
  14. 01
    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 both ways before crossing a road.
  15. 01
    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (rocks009)
  16. 26
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (tandah)
  17. 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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» See also 926 mentions

English (526)  Spanish (32)  Italian (26)  French (25)  German (9)  Finnish (7)  Catalan (5)  Dutch (5)  Swedish (5)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (644)
Showing 1-5 of 526 (next | show all)
Alternating between engaging, sharp, interesting writing and sentimental manipulation, this book drove me crazy. On the one hand, the main character was extremely interesting with so many fascinating inner debates about art, beautiful, class conflict, personal responsibility, happiness and more. On the other hand, the romance in the latter half of the book betrayed the convincing portrait of that main character and substituted maudlin, superficial romantic drivel for the philosophical musings that were so wonderful. I tore through it and found it hard to put down, but was annoyed about half the time. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
I'd rate this 7 stars if i could, but at the same time, I realise this isn't for everyone. It's surreal, subtle and is specifically meant for an audience that has thought as deeply about everything as the author has. In other words, another masterpiece, amidst a mayhem of lesser masterpieces. ( )
  breathstealer | Sep 19, 2023 |
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is Muriel's second book after Gourmet Rhapsody, and is actually the bread on a Gourmet Rhapsody sandwich.   The Elegance of the Hedgehog is set in the same building as Gourmet Rhapsody and begins shortly before the death bed of Pierre Arthens, and quickly passes by his death with a simple thought from a 12 year old girl in another apartment:

Pierre Arthens for sure was truly nasty.   They say he was the pope of food critics and a worldwide chapion of French cuisine.   Well, that doesn't surprise me.   If you want my opinion, French cuisine is pitiful.   So much genius and wherewithal and so many resources for such a heavy end result ... And so many sauces and stuffings and pastries, enough to make you burst!   It's in such bad taste ... And when it isn't heavy, it's as fussy as can be:   you're dying of hunger and before you are three stylized radishes and two scallops in a seaweed gelee served on pseudo-Zen plates by waiters who look as joyful as undertakers.

As a classically trained chef myself, i couldn't agree more.

Once Pierre is dead, the story quickly moves on as Pierre's apartment is soon taken over by a new, wealthy occupant.

So while Gourmet is certainly a good starter, you don't need to have read it beforehand to enjoy the main course of Elegance, you could actually read it when the Pierre's death is spoken about in Elegance, or even afterwards, as a desert, if you so wish.

But whether you read Gourmet or not, i highly suggest you read Elegance.   At it's heart is Muriel having some fun with the juxtaposition of the poor concierge on the ground floor with the wealthy inhabitants of the apartments above; peeling back the curtains to see what's really going on behind these closed doors, throwing in some great little rants, ideas, and wonderful, philosophical, food-for-thought concerning the disparity of rich and poor in society; and how each tend to live in completely separate universes, oblivious to each other, hopefully never having to meet on the stairs.

As i've previously mentioned in Night Train to Lisbon, i do enjoy philosophers who write novels, and if i had real books i'd happily put Muriel on the shelf next to Pascal.

Super good, and next up from Muriel will be The Life of Elves which i'll be sure to get around to reading in the not too distant future. ( )
  5t4n5 | Aug 9, 2023 |
Well, I finished this book yesterday and I'm still trying to decide whether to give it three stars or five. There are many elements that are preposterous, such as the characterisation - if there were a million Parises you still wouldn't find one Renee Michel; the ideas - a novel about class in a developed country in this age of globalisation is instantly redundant; and the plot, which is both ludicrous and predictable.

On the positive side, the writing is wonderfully light and very enjoyable. Both of the narrators dip their toes into serious thought in a way that leaves the reader feeling satisfied but not taxed. And this, I have decided even as I write, is why I shall give it three stars. There is a certain cynicism to the way the author performs this trick, of providing a veneer of cerebralism with the likes of Marx and Husserl without ever challenging the reader. It’s a cynicism which also drives the most basic appeal of the novel - the fact that apart from a very select few, most readers feel a bit like Renee Michel. We feel like our sensitive aesthetic dispositions are unvalued by our everyday lives, we imagine that we’re intellectual butterflies just waiting to emerge from our quotidian pupae. Mightn’t it be more interesting to have this belief challenged than to have it reinforced?

So, having said all of that, why did I give it any stars? Well, I was entertained by it. This book is an enjoyable read, provided you don't take the philosophical and aesthetic asides remotely seriously, but it just doesn’t have enough power or depth for four or five stars. I’d recommend it if you are going on holiday or to hospital or any other situation where entertainment is more important than challenge and it's OK that the kind of fun that comes from self-satisfaction triumphs over beauty or truth. ( )
  robfwalter | Jul 31, 2023 |
Puoi trovare questa recensione anche sul mio blog, La siepe di more

Avevo letto questo romanzo nella tarda adolescenza e me lo ricordavo come una lettura senza infamia e senza lode, tant’è che mi era scivolata dalla mente e, quando è stato scelto come libro del mese di dicembre per LiberTiAmo, ero contenta perché pensavo che avrei finito l’anno con una rilettura tranquilla.

Non dovrei proprio fidarmi ciecamente del giudizio della me lettrice adolescente: immagino che, ai tempi, fossi rimasta colpita, e forse anche un po’ intimorita, dalla filosofia che circola nel romanzo. Essendo Barbery una proprio una professoressa di filosofia, ha profuso le sue conoscenze in questa storia, che si presenta come una raffinata commedia francese.

Inizio quindi col dire che non ho ben colto l’ironia de L’eleganza del riccio, perché sebbene si prendano in giro le pretese dell’alta borghesia parigina entrambe le protagoniste, la portinaia Renée e la giovane Paloma, hanno punti di vista che suonano molto borghesi. So che la storia gioca con l’umile portinaia più colta di quanto sembri, ma mi è sembrato un gioco molto debole: in primis perché, finché non scopriamo il motivo della sua reticenza, le sue precauzioni appaiono decisamente spropositate; poi perché, quando questo motivo ci viene invece rivelato, non c’è tempo per metabolizzarlo prima che il romanzo sia finito.

Sono rimasta anche sconcertata dal modo in cui viene introdotto il nuovo coinquilino, il signor Ozu: solo perché giapponese sembra possedere tutta una serie di ottime qualità. Ora, se è passabile che Paloma, una dodicenne appassionata di manga e studentessa di giapponese, sia tutta eccitata dalla novità e se lo immagini già come il suo senpai, meno comprensibile è l’atteggiamento di Renée, che tra l’altro dovrebbe temere i ricchi borghesi tout court. Invece pare che nel suo mondo non esistano giapponesi ricchi e buzzurri. Okay. ( )
  kristi_test_02 | Jul 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 526 (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, Murielprimary 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
A Stéphane, con quien he escrito este libro.
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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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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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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