If you’re a fan of philosophical literature, or if you’re just interested in what those cheese-eating surrender monkeys across the pond are reading, The Elegance of the Hedgehog should be next on your ‘to read’ list. Now available in English, French philosophy professor Muriel Barbery’s book has already been a bestseller all over Europe since its overseas release.
Renee is a proletarian concierge at a bourgeois apartment building in Paris. Forced to leave school at age 12, she none the less managed to educate herself in philosophy and art far beyond the expected level for someone in her position. Fearful of exposing her education to others, she has chosen a life of pretending to be what people expect to see, hiding behind a stereotype of ignorance like a hedgehog hides behind its spines.
Paloma is a bright young girl living in Renee’s building. Disgusted with the lives of her family and other members of France’s upper class, she has reached the conclusion that it would be better to commit suicide than to live to the disillusionment of adulthood. Still, though, she is searching for something to prove that life is worth living.
Told in alternating entries from each character’s journal, the novel explores authenticity, human connection, psychology, aesthetics and idealism, drawing on the ideas of Kant, Husserl and William James. More than just a dry philosophical novel, though, Barbery tells a touching story of romance and friendship with moments of real humor and emotion that will appeal to anyone that has ever felt different.
Posted by alaubach