Book review IV

L’élégance du hérisson*

Muriel Barbery

L’élégance du hérisson

My French flatmate left the book in the living room and I just wanted to have a look into it. Not a good idea, an excellent one! This book is definitely one of my reading highlights for this year. It is fascinating, intelligent, philosophical, funny and sad, with and without happy end – yes both. It basically tells the storiesof Renée, concièrge and Paloma, a 12 year old extremely intelligent girl living in the same building.

The different inhabitants and their lives in a fishbowl are the background for Renée and Paloma who both analyse their lifes in their diaries and who both have to learn how to live; Paloma to get along with her future, Renée to get along with her past and both to get along with the society they live in. The story is too long to tell it in detail, but let me say that it involves a worthwhile insight in Art, Japanese culture, chats and the stupidity of adults.   

L’élégance du hérisson is an extremly nice title for a book pointing out that not everybody is what he/she seems to be. Some may be stupid, letting the pleasure of life slip away while they think offering their ‘valuable’ contribution to the world. Others, disregarded by the society may be far more intelligent than anyone could suppose but hidding because they were never accepted. While we see the “hérisson” we forget to look behind the obvious and to discover and appreciate others and perhaps even ourselves in different ways.

There would be a good number of nice quotations but since I am not very much inclined to translate them into English, here just one in French: “La faculté que nous avons de nous manipuler nous-même pour que ne vacille point le socle de nos croyances est un phénomène fascinant”.

To finish, a small warning for those who think now about buying the book in order to improve their French. The book, even if good to read, demands a very high level of vocabulary knowledge. I learned several new words, here some I want to remember for future use (whatsoever) : khâgne, caduc, peiner à faire qqch

* hérisson = Igel = hedgehog


3 responses to “Book review IV

  1. Sorry, but in my capacity as “Kulturbanause” I have to ask this – is there an English or German version?

  2. Actually, I do not know and I do not think so since this author is not very known, even not in France. I will try to find out.

  3. Hi Maik,

    I am sorry but as it seems, this book is not available in German or English. But perhaps it will be since Muriel Barbéry’s first book was translated in 12 other languages.

    Désolée, la puce

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