The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Book - 2008
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"An exquisite book in the form of a philosophical fable that has enchanted hundreds of thousands of readers."-Elle (Italy)
Publisher: New York : Europa Editions, 2008
ISBN: 9781933372600
1933372605
Branch Call Number: FICTION Bar
Description: 325 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Anderson, Alison

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Selection for 3/20/2019

In an elegant Paris apartment building, two introverts live in a world where they are not accepted. When both find solace with a wealthy Japanese businessman named Ozu, their lives change and their quiet natures begins to bloom beautifully.

“Renée Michel, 54 and widowed, is the stolid concierge in an elegant Paris hôtel particulier. Though short, ugly, and plump, Renée has, as she says, always been poor, but she has a secret: she's a ferocious autodidact who's better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobb... Read More »


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d
drvining
Sep 29, 2020

Elegance of the Hedgehog is an all-time favorite of mine. Complex characters, interwoven lives, the creativity and compassion abound in this lovely French novel. One of very few that I will re-read again and again. Literary fiction at its best.

b
BioCook
Mar 13, 2020

I bought a copy of this book when I was in high school, but never really read it because it was a bit too sophisticated for me. Now as a young professional, I was able to access this book more, although some of the references were beyond my knowledge (and interest) base. But, in a story of two erudite individuals, it made sense that the characters were not relatable in that regard. The story was very fascinating and unique! If you move beyond the intense references and intelligence gap, you will find a nice story within!

i
iloveseaotters
Jan 26, 2020

This book had been on my TO READ list forever and I was anxious to finally start it. What a huge disappointment to find that it doesn't seem to be a "real" story; just a bunch of short entries that frankly are either boring or don't make sense. Maybe it's me, maybe something was lost in translation but I didn't get too far into it before I decided that I have a lot more books to read on my very long list.

FPL_ThomasF Dec 05, 2019

The first few pages will give your brain a workout (stick with it, you can do it!) but move through them to discover a wonderful book about a precocious girl with family issues searching for the meaning of life with an older mentor who is outwardly very simple but has an inner life propelled by art and literature.

k
KristinaKnutson
Sep 14, 2019

I loved the book - probably because I could identify with the smart woman who had to hid her smarts to survive I would haave wished for a happier ending tho

s
SusanJ_124
Jun 01, 2019

Pretentious drivel. Worse, pretentious drivel where the author creates situations where not one but two protagonists get to complain endlessly, repetitively, mind-numbingly-boringly about everything and everyone around them. I regret finishing this book (though admit to skimming large chunks) as this is time in my life I can never get back. I will never read anything by this author again.

y
YjBS
Oct 31, 2018

Beautifully written lyrical book.
Exploring concepts of who we really are vs who we pretend to be and why.
I loved every moment until the final chapter which was heartbreaking.

x
xiaojunbpl12
Jun 11, 2018

The book is full of (philosophy, literature, pop culture... beauty, art, time, death...class, wealth vs poverty) lofty subjects, crammed into the heads of two pathological geniuses, their erudite narrations alternate, failed to entertain me, no matter what perspective I endeavor. A satire? A reference read for school project? A pseudo Proustian, nice try?
I found some pearls - adage, metaphor, axiom, but couldn't thread these into a necklace.
Since the book dedicates one chapter on Consonance (art), there may be consonance of a single thought and a simple abstract expression here and there, but the whole book lack consonance.
Aristocracy of the heart, what an incongruent claim Rene has. Does author want to ridicule the heroine with what she intend to disdain or elude to value?

j
Joe_Z
Dec 05, 2017

Joy and sadness...glad I had a napkin handy to blot the tears. I suppose the sentimentality hit me harder than expected since I was listening to a mix of 80s music and reminiscing about my own life.

diesellibrarian Oct 16, 2017

I'm of two minds about this novel. On the one hand, it is well-constructed and features a set of quirky yet (mostly) likeable characters; however, the whole thing is overlaid with a heavy-handed philosophical discourse that appears to have no other purpose than to demonstrate the author's Wikipedia-level knowledge of 20th-Century Western thought. Strange digressions abound, in the form of the internal monologues of the protagonists, all of whom are outcasts of one type or another. Thus we learn that the solitary-yet-highly intelligent concierge favours Kant, and that Husserl and the phenomenologists are basically garbage. Such asides contribute nothing to the story. So why are they there? Presumably the intent is to prove that the author is as "intelligent" as the characters she is writing. This brings us to another problem with the book: the main characters bathe in the rarified air of high culture and literature, while the socially-powerful-yet-vapid people surrounding them serve are mere caricatures, consumed as they are with all of the lusts and chemical dependencies and empty consumerism of late capitalism. This false dichotomy rings hollow. Clearly the author intended the book as some kind of cultural critique; however, her unabashed adoration of the products of Western "high" art (not to mention a vaguely Orientalist idealization of Japanese culture) detracts from her ethos. This novel lacks the subtle social commentary of "Anna Karenina," which is clearly a favourite of the author's: allusions to it are peppered throughout the novel. Further, "Hedgehog" occasionally stretches the reader's ability to suspend disbelief (a 12-year-old blackmailing her family therapist while quoting Lacan? Suuuurrrrrre.). If this novel spent a year on the NYT Bestseller list, it's not because it's a smart novel, it's because it makes readers FEEL like they're smart for reading it. If you are looking for modern European philosophical fiction, keep moving. Many finer examples exist.

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m
mogie
Feb 07, 2013

"They didn't recognize me," I say.
I come to a halt in the middle of the sidewalk, completely flabbergasted.
"They didn't recognize me," I repeat.
He stops in turn, my hand still on his arm.
"It is because they have never seen you," he says. "I would recognize you anywhere."

l
lisahiggs
Jul 27, 2011

[C]athedrals have always aroused in me the sensation of extreme light-headedness one often feels in the presence of man-made tributes to the glory of something that does not exist … [and] tested to the extreme my ability to believe that so much intelligence could have gone to serve so futile an undertaking.

n
ndp21f
Nov 15, 2010

That's just great; something like this would happen right before I die. Twelve and a half years in a cultural desert and right when it's time to go and pack it in a Japanese gentleman arrives . . . it really is too unfair.

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