Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery Trans: Alison Anderson

It made me cry.

I can tell you this without regret because it is truly the first time I have been moved to tears by a novel. I think I have fallen in love with a new author.

Superbly translated from French to American, Hedgehog is not a book that lends itself to simple summation. On first glance, it is the story of an intelligent woman who is hiding her light under the facade of a concierge in a building of rich French idiots. No, not idiots, but rather those who have been raised from birth to consider themselves better and more important than the working class. They could be the nuveau riche of New York City just as easily.

She eventually finds two new friends among these privileged residents: A suicidal 12 year old genius and the first new resident in 27 years.

But Hedgehog is not really about that at all. Like Renee this book is hiding its true nature under what seems to be a love story – a true romance. Hedgehog is instead about zen. How a French novel, translated into the less fluid language of American manages to precisely pinpoint the true natureof zen I will never know.

Hedgehog is about the beauty of the moment. It is the heart of life captured in the motion of breath, the hidden life of intersections, and the oddity that is true clarity.

By now my constant readers will know that I decry “literature” and think The New York Times is full of crap. In fact, one would question how this book even made its way into my hands. The only explanation I have is synchroncity and an airport bookstore who’s sci-fi section was over-run by Charlene Harris. For the first time I can say without irony – thank you True Blood for helping me find something truly remarkable.


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