New York Times reports today that the movie based on The Elegance of the Hedgehog will be released on August 5 in US:

THE HEDGEHOG An alienated 11-year-old Parisienne (Garance Le Guillermic) finds an unexpected friend in her apartment building’s grumpy concierge (Josiane Balasko). Mona Achache directed this 2009 French feature, adapted from “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.

The movie has received good reviews, so this is really something to look forward to for fans of Muriel Barbery!

{ 0 comments }

Interviews with Muriel Barbery

by Peter on April 25, 2011

Interview with Muriel Barbery (2008) bookbrowse.com

A Rare Interview with Muriel Barbery (2008) bookhugger.com

Interview with Muriel Barbery (2009) (timesunion.com)

{ 0 comments }

Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery

by admin on December 28, 2009

Gourmet Rhapsody was French novelist Muriel Barbery’s first novel. It has only been translated and released in English after the phenomenal success of her second novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Gourmet Rhapsody is a special and veryGourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery interesting debut novel. It encompasses a series of witty reflections on the life and career of the famous but oh so unlovable French food critic Pierre Arthens, as he lies on his death bed in the same posh building that was made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, desperate to recapture a forgotten flavor.

Monsieur Arthens, revered by some and reviled by many, has been lording it over the world’s most esteemed chefs for years. He is a loathsome man who has passed judgment on their gastronomic creations year after year, and who has decided their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim.

Now, this self-absorbed dying man has one wish, one desire before he dies: he wants one last taste of the Flavor par excellence. His physician has told him he has 48 hours to live, so time is short. Lapsing through chapters into nostalgic memories of early, formative tastes, women and pets, Arthens reveals himself as a man driven by gastronomic ecstasies, from his childhood impressions of eating grilled meat in Tangiers to summers gorging on fresh fish in Brittany. Alternating with these splendid remembrances is decidedly more salty commentary by his resentful children.

We are told the strange tale of this venerable man’s life, partly with his own voice, and partly told by acquaintances and other people (and even a cat). There are many who wants to voice their views on M. Arthens – he has been a man without any middle ground, a man either loved or hated.

Muriel Barbery’s debut novel may at times be a little rough-edged, but the prose is rich and very satisfying. Gourmet Rhapsody is an interesting book which is very well worth reading.

“Barbery’s debut, occasionally rough-edged and uneven in structure, showcases her lush and satisfying prose and sets the stage for what has come. ” – Publishers Weekly

“This work will delight foodies with a love of language but may disappoint readers looking for a novel they can really sink their teeth into.” – Library Journal

“In Gourmet Rhapsody, Barbery best expresses her talent, demonstrating sensitivity and profound understanding both of life’s many flavors and of the ways of the human soul, with all its weaknesses and contradictions.” – Food & Beverage Magazine (Italy)

“Muriel Barbery possesses a controlled, rich, and precise language, one that allows readers to taste the very flavors described.”- Corriere della Sera (Italy)

{ 3 comments }

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

by admin on December 21, 2009

Some colors are too vivid to explain. Some paintings have a beauty that can hardly be captured by mere words. And The Elegance of the Hedgehog has beauty and elegance The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barberythat transcends most known standards, and it’s excellently translated by Alison Anderson. It is clever, sensuous, and invites us to deep pondering of issues of fundamental importance in a setting of satire, humor, warmth and compassion.

This highly celebrated and praised novel has sold more than one million copies in France alone. And it has been a great success all over Europe. It is a very French novel, with strange and unlikely but likable characters and full of reflections on the nature of beauty and art and the meaning of life and death. It is written, of course, by an author well versed in Kant and Sartre and who seemingly is no stranger to Being and Nothingness.

The strange and moving tale takes place mostly within the confines of an exclusive apartment building in Paris. The tenants are wealthy Parisians. It’s a place where families have lived seemingly forever and know one another well – almost too well

The Elegance of the Hedgehog has two “heroines” who write diaries: One is a concierge, the other a suicidal adolescent. Only they are more – so much more. They don’t exactly fit those categories. Unless you are used to concierges that describe themselves like Renée does: “I correspond so very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered.” I am not used to that. And, yes, she is very intelligent and an autodidact. Of course. And she reads Tolstoy and philosophy, yet likes Blade Runner. So now you know the type.

The other heroine, Paloma, is 12. She is suicidal (how French!) and hyper intelligent. Of the kind that records of “Profound Thoughts” in a diary. She is so disgusted by the world that she has decided to kill herself on her 13th birthday. But she is also a child.

Paloma and Renee have a mutual friend. He is a mysterious, wealthy Japanese man who moves into the building. His name is Monsieur Ozu.

The book moves back and forth between the two diaries of the heroines, with a little real life here and there. So it’s a book of reflections, views and pondering, and also of convergence. I am not sure why it is so compelling, and why it drew me into this universe as it did – but it works on you almost like gravity, you don’t feel it, but even so you are actually in its influence.

It’s quite surprising that such a strange tale can move readers so much, but it does. It’s a tale that touches you. Not a tale that leaves you happy – for there is no happy, sunshine and they-lived-happily-ever-after ending here, but a tale that transfers you into thinking or pondering state. It simply is one of those rare books that touch your inner being and finds you weak spots – it may make you smile while crying – just as excellent food seem to find some taste buds all of its own that you never knew you even had. Before you ate it, that is.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is heartwarming tale and a book to read, ponder, sense and savor.

Praise for this wonderful book:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog ..belongs to a distinct subgenre: the accessible book that flatters readers with its intellectual veneer… Even when the novel is most essayistic, the narrators’ kinetic minds and engaging voices .. propel us ahead.” –The New York Times – Caryn James

[Renee Michel and Paloma Josse] provide the double narrative of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and you will … fall in love with both. — The Washington Post – Michael Dirda

The formula that made more than half a million readers in France fall in love with this book has, among other ingredients: intelligent humor, fine sentiments, an excellent literary and philosophical backdrop, good taste, sophistication and substance. –La Repubblica

Nobody ever imagined that this tender, funny book with a philosophical vein would have enjoyed such incredible success. For some, it is part Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, part Monsieur Malaussene by Daniel Pennac. –Le Monde

Enthusiastically recommended for anyone who loves books that grow quietly and then blossom suddenly. — Marie Claire (France)

“Barbery’s sly wit, which bestows lightness on the most ponderous cogitations, keeps her tale aloft.” – The New Yorker

Despite its cutesy air of chocolate-box Paris, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is, by the end, quite radical in its stand against French classism and hypocrisy. … an admirable novel which deserves as wide a readership here as it had in France.” – Viv Groskop, The Observer

{ 2 comments }

Biography Muriel Barbery

by admin on December 21, 2009

Muriel Barbery was born May 28th, 1969 in Casablanca, Morocco. She was raised in France. She entered the École muriel_barberyNormale 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. She currently lives in Japan with her husband Stéphane.

She is a French novelist and professor of philosophy. She has written two books that has been translated into English, Gourmet Rhapsody (original title Une Gourmandise, 2000) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (original title: L’Élégance du hérisson, 2006).

In an interview at bookbrowse.com she was asked how she felt about being a publishing sensation. Her answer was:

Surprise, incredulity and joy! When the book was first published in France, in September 2006, I thought that nobody would read it and I was readying myself for some other pursuit, in addition to teaching. The fact that the book corresponded to the tastes of readers, and that it has crossed the borders into other countries, surprises me. I still cannot completely explain to myself what happened. I am, also, incredibly happy about this unexpected fate. This success has allowed me to realize some of my dreams, to live in Japan and to be able to write full-time.

About the charcters in her book, she said:

You have portrayed two rather unusual characters. Young Paloma is disarming; she remains implacable before the hypocrisies of her “caviar left” family; but Renée, secretly refined concierge, is perhaps the more singular if two.

I was inspired by the idea of a reserved, cultured concierge who turned stereotypes on their head and at the same time created a compelling comic effect. With her keen perspective on things, this character then opened the door on a kind of social criticism. I wasn’t interested in writing a fairytale about a kind concierge and an adorable child. I wanted to confront themes that were tragic, or absurd, real, while maintaining a light touch. I wanted to explore the natures of two people who were both lonely and distant and who end up finding one another.

What really unites them?

Both ask themselves where beauty lies. The young girl is convinced that it lies hidden in fragile, fleeting things. She searches for it in movement, which is elusive by definition. And she finds it. Perhaps even during a rugby match, in the hypnotic movements of a Maori rugby player.

In an interview with Time she says the following about why she thinks The Elegance of the Hedgehog has been so successful:

Barbery thinks her book has enjoyed such universal success because people everywhere are worried about superficiality overtaking substance in their lives. She says her cast of “improbable characters and clashing perspectives has managed to interest an equally improbable range of readers from very different backgrounds.” It would be a surprise if those who read English proved any less susceptible to this book’s charms.

See also: Lost in Translation II – A Conversation with Muriel Barbery
Muriel Barbery: An Elegant Quill

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery

{ 11 comments }