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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  123,610 Ratings  ·  15,770 Reviews
A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted t
Paperback, First English Edition, 325 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Europa Editions (first published August 2006)
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Garden Gal This is not a small, easy book. IT IS a book for teens and adults who do not mind thinking as they read.
It is difficult to read at a single sitting…more
This is not a small, easy book. IT IS a book for teens and adults who do not mind thinking as they read.
It is difficult to read at a single sitting because it will stimulate thought, and perhaps journaling.

I have read it only twice to date,and made discoveries on the second reading. Share it and talk about it with other readers.(less)
Dolly I agree it is wordy and more like a reading assignment in a Philosophy course at the beginning. But as soon as the Ozu character is introduced, you…moreI agree it is wordy and more like a reading assignment in a Philosophy course at the beginning. But as soon as the Ozu character is introduced, you begin to love the three main characters. It's worth staying with it to the end. Listening to an audio version helps, while reading along in the book. Hearing the narrator's voice endears her to you. Stay with it. It's a beautiful book in many ways.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
I recently had a brief relationship with a young lady who had studied philosophy at a university in southern California. The relationship was destined to be a brief one, as she left for the Philippines to join the Peace Corps just a week or so ago. On one of our last evenings together, she thanked me for something that I found curious.

She said, "Isaiah, have you ever met someone at a party or something who finds out you studied philosophy -- and then they just try to talk to you the whole rest
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: snobs
Shelves: maybe-it-s-me
My name is Renee, and I’m the first protagonist of this book – the hedgehog, as it were. I’m a 54-year-old concierge who works in a building populated by rich and powerful people who barely notice my existence. I’m also a closet intellectual and I frequently try to prove that to you by digressing into asides about philosophy, culture, and other topics. I alternate between sniping at the apartment owners for their snobbish indifference to my lowly concierge self (an image I strive to maintain at ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
This is another moment when I wonder what is wrong with me... Everyone in France recommends this book! The premise is original enough that I was hoping the book would be a real find: within the same super high end Parisian apartment building live 2 misfits: the 54 year old concierge who reads Kant and Tolstoi in secret and a 12 year old girl with abnormally high IQ and suicidal tendencies. The first half of the book is an excuse for the author's long academic digressions on Kant, phenomenology, ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE!
That so many people love this book makes me fear for the future of literature. It is one of the most pretentious, banal "novels" I've ever read. In fact, "novel" is too good a word for its bloggishly self-indulgent, smugly insipid meanderings. Actually most blogs are much more interesting than this book. The two main characters (the concierge Renee and the young girl, Paloma) are hypocritical snobs who accuse others of snobbery. This intolerance is forgiveable in a child perhaps, but not in a 53 ...more
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you are an artist, a thinker, someone who longs for more, an aestheticist, a dreamer, a seeker.... then read this book. it made me laugh and cry in a way that only a well crafted, well loved, well written book can.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I must admit this wasn't a 5-star read until the last 50 pages, which may actually make this a 6-star read. This book is beautiful for its underlying truth: we are all worthy of love, love that will surely be given, if we will but believe we are worthy.

My friend Rose, repeated the quote that referenced Renee Michel as being prickly like a hedgehog, but so elegant on the inside. For me, the section that spoke volumes was the Profound Thought by Paloma in defense of grammar:

Personally I think that
Helen Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος   Vernus Portitor Arcanus Ταμετούρο   Αμούν Arnum
Έπειτα απο 54 χρόνια μιας ζωής μέσα στη λαθροβίωση ενός μοναχικού πνεύματος,με ατελείωτα ασκητικά αναγνώσματα,με χειμώνες αρρώστειας,με θαλπωρή φιλίας,με αγάπη για την ένοχη ζεστασιά του κόσμου. (Υπάρχει η κομψότητα του σκαντζόχοιρου)

Έπειτα απο 54 χρόνια συναισθηματικής και ψυχικής ερημιάς και σιωπηλών θριάμβων,μέσα σε ένα απομονωμένο εσωτερικό και μοναχικό πνεύμα που μίσησε θανάσιμα τις διακρίσεις και τις κάστες,που αποτέλεσαν διέξοδο για τις μάταιες ψευδαισθήσεις των ελπίδων της,(μυήθηκε στον
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you bite into this expecting a light, buttery, wholly unhealthy croissant, be forewarned -- it has some fiber in it, too. It’s about two unlikely intellectuals. One is a dowdy concierge in an upscale Paris apartment and the other is an unusual 12-year-old girl living there with her well-to-do family. I like how their brainpower comes through in their ideas and observations rather than from the author just telling us how “wicked smaht” they are (to borrow Chuckie’s phrase from Good Will Huntin ...more
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An expert, uproarious parallel play of two extremely astute yet heartwarming consciousnesses! There are so many quotable lines here, observations that are immeasurably insurmountably profound. It is a book of paradigms, life lessons, needle point philosophies arriving from two different backgrounds. The Point: no matter where you are from, you can attain an envious intelligence & plenty a poetic articulation.

About the plot must be simplified by simpler minds (my own, etc.) as: la femme franc
Apr 24, 2009 rated it did not like it
after giving this book a chance, i have decided that the only chance it deserves is to be methodically shredded page by page and subsequently dissolved, in its entirety, in a pool of ammonia.

the rampant fetishism of japanese culture aside (which is seriously so disturbing and surprising to come across in a bestseller that was written within the past 5 years), the plot is entirely centered on the interior monologues of two characters, two characters who are so unctuously trite and platitudinizing
"Philosophy is the disease for which it should be the cure, but isn't," said someone - possibly H. Feigl. To me, this engaging book is above all an exploration of what it means to be a philosopher. The author briskly dismisses common misconceptions: to start with, you don't need to be an academic, and indeed this may well be harmful. Really, being a philosopher is about having a certain kind of attitude to the world.

The two main characters, who alternately narrate the story, are both philosophe
I just finished the book and I suppose it is better to let it sink in before I do a review, but since I do not think the following statements will be altered by further thought, I will state them now. First of all I rhink many who read this book will say OMG, it's a fairy tale! That couldn't happen. Well I don't agree. I am not going to give anything away, so don't worry. What happens, could happen, although I agree perhaps not that often. One has to believe and one has to
Oct 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
Even if I were to overlook the self-obsessed, banal philosophical discourses that dominate this novel, I would still hate 'Elegance of the Hedgehog,' mainly because its characters are contrived and unbelievable. The main character, a concierge for a luxurious Parisian apartment complex, is a self-taught expert in philosophy, art, and film, yet she pretends to be stupid. Her behavior is apparently explained by her conviction that people from different social classes should not interact or become ...more
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an absolutely breathtaking book. Just stunning. Light and airy, yet penetrating, with bits of soft brilliance on every page. My goodness, what an astonishing book.

There are two narrators. The first is Renée Michel, a middle-aged concierge at an extremely opulent luxury apartment building in Paris. She has spent her twenty-five years there cultivating a careful persona of low-class idiocy – leaving the TV on at all times, maintaining an unkempt appearance, speaking
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Initial review: 12/11/2008 -

I may revisit the 5-star rating in a week or two, but after reading this book through all last night in a single sitting, it seems ungenerous to give it anything less.

Muriel Barbery walks the high-wire throughout - there were any number of places where things could have degenerated into mere sentimentality. Not to mention the assorted philosophical digressions. But the alternating narrators - Renee the dumpy concierge and Paloma the precocious 12-year old - are so ch
Jennifer (aka EM)
"this is the fear, this is the dread
these are the contents of my head..."

I've always loved that line from Annie Lennox's Why. This book is about the contents of two characters' heads: Paloma, the 12-yr old suicidal prodigy, and Renée, the 50-something cat-lady concierge. Be careful with these characters, and by that I mean: take care of them, for they are fragile, sad souls in need of understanding and in need, moreover, of someone--anyone--to see through their facades and see them for who they
Barry Pierce
I've had this on my bookshelf for years. That's so typically me. I'll buy a book tomorrow but I probably won't read it for at least a year. I don't know why I do this because, as is the case with this novel, I seem to be putting off reading books that I quite enjoy.

This is the first book I've read this year which teeters on the edge between the three and four star rating. I enjoyed all the characters in here. Of course I loved Renée. I saw a lot of myself in her. Which is odd because she is a Fr
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
My friend, Elyse, sent me this wonderful book, and I found it extra sweet that she sent me a book with a poignant friendship theme. This book was thought-provoking, and the characters were endearing, philosophical, and super-intellectual with crazy good vocabularies that kept me on my toes! Seriously! I'm at a loss of how else to describe this book other than to say I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Elyse! ❤ ...more
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016

Five stars for the philosophy essays, four stars for the actual plot. I have a feeling that the philosophy professor is dominating the novelist in this highly popular novel by Muriel Barbery, yet I have really enjoyed the time spent in the company of the two main characters: and elderly concierge and a pre-teen girl, both living in a high end Paris apartment, but at opposite ends of the social scale. Madame Renee Michel hides in the basement while Paloma Josse plays hides and seek with her famil
Ahmad Sharabiani
L' elegance du herisson = The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery (1969)
عنوان: ظرافت جوجه تیغی؛ اثر: موریل باربری؛ مترجم: مرتضی کلانتریان؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، آگاه، 1388، در 360 ص، شابک: 9789644162978؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسوی قرن 21 م
داستان در آپارتمان شماره هفت خیابان گرونل جریان دارد که آپارتمانی در منطقه ی مرفه نشین شهر است. خانم رنه میشل: سرایدار پیر، چاق و زشتروی ساختمان روحی بزرگوار دارد. او عاشق: ادبیات، سینما و موسیقی هست؛ اما کوشش میکند کس این را نداند. از خط قرمزهای اجتم
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, france
I really loved this little book.

The only reason it is not getting 5 stars is because of some of the long, boring, and i felt unnesscary philosophical parts. Just droned on. Like I get are smart.

Enjoyed the short/alternating chapters.

Loved the characters. True friendship.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A text is written above all to be read and to arouse emotions." Whether you like a book "is the only question that could give meaning to the narrative points of view or the construction of the story."

This is a French confection that is light and pretty and sharp, but actually much, much more skillful and substantial than it first seems. The plot is slight and broadly predictable, but it gently leads the reader along more philosophical lines, many of which probably went over my head, but which I
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Reading all the reviews for this book is hilarious. They range from one star and "this book deserves to be shredded one page at a time" to 5 stars and "this is the best book ever written". I will go half way and say 3 stars and it has good points and bad ones. The bad - at first it comes across as pompous and trying far too hard to be clever. There are long philosophical passages which add nothing to the characters or the story. The good - once the new tenant arrives the main characters all beco ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Onvan : The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Nevisande : Muriel Barbery - ISBN : 1933372605 - ISBN13 : 9781933372600 - Dar 325 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2006
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful book. While reading, when I wasn't bobbing my head in agreement with the philosophical insights, I found myself consulting a dictionary to learn a new word or idea, or pausing to absorb and consider what I'd just read. I'll go through it again soon because I'm sure there's so much I've missed. The pages I'd like to reconsider are already marked and my next reading will probably be carried out with a highlighter. This is on my list of "best books read". Thought-provoking is an un ...more
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, translated, 2016
Such a lovely story. The characters are pompous and judgmental but also totally endearing. It took me a while, about 1/3 of the story, to get into it completely, but then I fell in love. It's not often I underline in my books, but this one had so many beautiful sentiments that I couldn't leave unrecognized.


"Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single m
Miss Ravi
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, 1394

کتاب را که شروع کردم این احساس به من دست داد که نویسنده فلسفه خوانده (به شکل آکادمیک). و بعد ویکیپدیا حدسم را به واقعیت تبدیل کرد. مدتها پیش کسی به من گفت رماننویسی که فلسفه خوانده با فیلسوفی که رُمان بنویسد متفاوت است. حالا مصداقش را پیدا کردم. موریل باربری در مقایسه با امانوئل اشمیت در بعضی از کتابهایش و یا پاسکال مرسیه با «قطار شبانهی لیسبون».
دربارهی کتاب چه بگویم که تقریباً من را به کُشتن داد؟ بس که روایت دلچسبی داشت و سیر جملاتی که در عین پرطمطراق بودن، جذبت میکردند و بهت لذت میدادند و چیز
Clara Cuevas
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Entonces, lluvia de verano.
No me esperaba lo que sucede en las últimas 50 páginas y no creí que fuera a llorar con los últimos 4 párrafos.
Sin palabras, me encantó.
Si me permiten ahora veré a película.
Lisa Vegan
Sep 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy getting to know interesting fictional characters
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Some asides before the review: Ugh. One of my pet peeves is when books don’t start on page 1 and I think that this book starts farther ahead of page 1 than any book I’ve ever read. Enough said about that. Also, in this edition there are some mistakes: fourth and sixth floor residents get mixed up two times, the age difference/direction of the sisters was given incorrectly in one instance, I think. I tried, mostly successfully, not to be too OCD like Colombe, Paloma’s sister, as I am normally bot ...more
Наталия Янева
Ако нямам друг живот, освен този, нещо в него трябва да се промени. Не мога да съм рок звезда, астронавт, учен в NASA (просто няма как да стане; не и в тази паралелна реалност), а може би ми се щеше. Не си пускам телевизора, защото нямам такъв. Ако все пак има някаква причина да сме на света точно сега, то вярвам, че това не го дават по телевизията.

Животът е гонене на опашки. Някои гонят собствените си, някои – тези на други, а го има и третия вид, които просто гонят опашката на щастието. Може б
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Muriel Barbery is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. Barbery entered the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud in 1990 and obtained her agrégation in philosophy in 1993. She then taught philosophy at the Université de Bourgogne, in a lycée, and at the Saint-Lô IUFM.

La timide et très discrète Muriel Barbery ne s’imaginait sans doute pas faire l’objet de l’engouement qu
More about Muriel Barbery...
“I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.” 395 likes
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” 347 likes
More quotes…