Kate's Reviews > The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
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Apr 03, 09

bookshelves: 2009
Read in April, 2009

I got the feeling that I was supposed to feel sympathy for Madame Michel and Paloma, but that Vonnegut quote kept coming back to me--"we are what we pretend to be." I was irritated by the idea that some people are "Judges of Humanity" because of their excess of sensitivity and that they are justified in hiding their intelligence and inherent appreciation of culture because the rest of the world just wouldn't understand. And if this book is any indication, like-minded souls will find each other and generate a whole new world of wonder and love, just kind of spontaneously.

Also, this amazing new world can only be accessed through slavish love of all things Asian. Expensive sushi okay, cassoulet not okay. Whatever. I'm pissed off. Maybe I'll rewrite this later.
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Reading Progress

03/30/2009 page 201
61.85%

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Annabel Hmmm... I kind of loved this book, despite the super blatant orientalism.

Maybe in translation, it becomes harder to feel sympathetic for Mme Michel and Paloma--you know how some things which you wouldn't bat an eye at if uttered in French become outrageous when pronounced in English...


message 2: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate Annabel wrote: "Hmmm... I kind of loved this book, despite the super blatant orientalism.

Maybe in translation, it becomes harder to feel sympathetic for Mme Michel and Paloma--you know how some things which you..."


It did occur to me that much of the subtlety of the text was probably missing in the English translation, and likewise the ruminations on art probably come off as much more deliberate/intrusive in English. So I concede that some of the flimsiness of characterization and thudding dialogue might be the work of the translator. That said, when I do get a chance to (try to) read the French text, I'm still approaching it with a little healthy skepticism, since even in another language I imagine that some of the features of the plot that bothered me will remain largely intact.

I should've included in my review that I really ENJOYED the book, though, and that I read it in a few long sittings. So something was working. It was provocative, I guess? I thought Colombe was funny?



Annabel Colombe is "soooo Freeeenchhh!!"

She IS funny. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the book, at least! Perhaps I should not tell you that when I finished reading, I absolutely bawled in my little garret? Do let me know what you think of the original, if/when you get a chance to read it not in translation.



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