I will start just like this: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” by Muriel Barbery, became one of the best books I’ve ever read. This is why this lecture will stay as a favorite for a long, long time.
The lecture is a philosophical novel, where the French-based author, Barbery, writes about the hidden lives and the strong, beautiful and smart characters who stay beneath daily stereotypes.
3 characters, 1 common path
Renée Michel is the 50-something concierge at 7 rue de Grenelle, Paris, that kind of building with glamorous and wealthy people. Despite her occupation, Michel is a wise woman, with a strong affinity to philosophy.
The other half of the book is the journal of Paloma, a 12 years old smart girl. She is also a philosophy maniac, and her will is to commit suicide, as her brilliance is overwhelming her.
The third character, Kakuro Ozu is the new Japanese tenant who, after moving in the building, somehow unites the destiny of the two females. As a result, he smartly detects the intelligence of these 2 and invites them to his cultured life. The friendship who will blossom offers Renée and Paloma the perfect escape from their mental prisons.
The title itself, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” got an explanation somewhere at the half of the book. Here, the author says about her main character, Madame Renée Michel, that she has the elegance of a hedgehog. At the exterior, the animal seems like a real fortress, having lots of those spines. Instead, at the interior, the creature is a solitary, elegant and a genteel character.
Things I find surprising about this book
Despite the fact that “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” becomes very philosophical writing many times, it doesn’t get you tired. For instance, Michel talks about Marx, Kant and the films of Ozu and Wenders in a pleasant, perfectly balanced way.
A bestseller, translated in tens of languages, I consider this lecture an urban, adult fable, a very light-spirited perspective over the modern world.