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 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

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

carolina nuñez January 3, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Salut Muriel, tout d’abord préciser que je vis en Argentine et pas le français, pour que je te commande de ce message, en utilisant le traducteur Google … horreur. Il ya quelques semaines, j’ai lu votre livre et être totalement impressionné, bon nombre des questions soulevées dans le livre, sinon la totalité m’intéressent beaucoup, et l’énorme capacité de livres à nous rendre sages, le snobisme, l’intelligence, les barrières sociales Le suicide, ce qui veut dire pas de raison de se tenir sur cette planète, les profondeurs des relations familiales …
En conclusion, je vous dis ma grande surprise, de connaître votre date de naissance, je suis née le 28 Mai, del 69 en Malaga, Espagne.
Félicitations, le livre est inoubliable.
Carolina Nuñez

cj January 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

I love your writing Muriel. Your (or your character’s) philosophies on children, parenting and living are very much in line with my own thinking. Reading your words is both exciting and relaxing. Thank you.


charlie stella March 7, 2010 at 8:02 am

My wife and I both enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgeholg but I was more confounded by some of the vocabularly (my deficient vocabulary was at fault). Review here:

We’ll definitely read Gourmet Rhapsody (but I’ll have a portable dictionary on hand at all times).

Darryl Knott August 2, 2010 at 2:12 am

I am a avid and eclectic reader. Fiction or non fiction, this is the first book that I have ever finished, and then immediately turned to the start and began reading again. A work of art.

Elaine August 30, 2010 at 11:08 am

Thanks for the “mind candy”. How sweet it is!
(in regards to “The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

Barbara F December 20, 2010 at 2:11 am

Not only informative, but with characterizations that come to life. I felt challenged by the vocabulary and needed my dictionary close at hand. I was deeply touched by the characters and was sad to finish the book and say goodbye to it,

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