Lori's Book Nook

Elegant Hedgehogs & other French writings

Posted on: November 7, 2009

I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: 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. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?

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4 Responses to "Elegant Hedgehogs & other French writings"

A very interesting choice of french books! I personnaly recommend books by Amélie Nothomb such as La métaphysique des tubes or even Le dictionnaire des prénoms. Her work is (in my opinion) extremelly interessting.
Hope you will like her work if you have the time (after all, like me you always seem to have many books on the go)

W.R
p.s i’m soory for any english mistakes… i really love your site but am afraid to participate more in discussions for my english is not very good

WR, first off, welcome welcome welcome. Get the discussion going all you want – your English is great! (I taught English as a Second/Foreign Language for years…attempt to function in French at times…I know what fluency looks like.) Are you French? or?

I will look up Amélie Nothomb — thanks for the recommendation.

yes, my first language is french. I must admit that you made me very happy by saying that my english is good.

You’re welcome. Et vous pouvez toujours écrire en français…j’aimerais avoir un blog bilingue! 😀

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