Paperback Original. In the heart of Paris, in the posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world, is dying. Revered by some and reviled by many, Monsieur Arthens has been lording it over the world's most esteemed chefs for years, passing judgment on their creations, deciding their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim. But now, during these his final hours, his mind has turned to simpler things. He is desperately searching for that singular flavor, that sublime something once sampled, never forgotten, the Flavor par excellence. Indeed, this flamboyant and self-absorbed man desires only one thing before he dies: one last taste.
Thus begins a charming voyage that traces the career of Monsieur Arthens from childhood to maturity across a celebration of all manner of culinary delights. Alternating with the voice of the supercilious Arthens is a chorus belonging to his acquaintances and familiars-relatives, lovers, a would-be protégé, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about M. Arthens, a man who has inspired only extreme emotions in people.
"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)
"In the pages of this book, Barbery shows off her finest gift: lightness."- La Repubblica (Italy)
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Rated of 5
The Gourmet is the first novel by Muriel Barbery. Pierre Arthens, France’s greatest food critic, is dying. As he lies on his deathbed in his Rue de Grenelle apartment, he is tormented by his inability to recall the most delicious food to pass his lips, long before he became a critic. The story is narrated by Arthens himself, as he recalls meals and times in his life in an effort to identify the elusive dish; the people and things in his life also recount their experiences and opinions of him. Barbery’s own childhood in Morocco is in evidence, and the apartment building and the concierge make a further appearance in Barbery’s next and very popular novel, “The Elegance of the Hedghog”. I wondered how the musings of a dying man could make much of a novel, but this is a feast of words, a banquet of mouth-watering and evocative descriptions. Alison Anderson has done a first class job of translation. This is truly a treat to relish.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is Muriel Barbery's second novel. It has sold over 1.2 million copies in its native France and spent almost two years on the bestseller lists. It has enjoyed similar success in Italy, Spain, Germany, and many other countries.
Muriel Barbery currently lives in Japan with her husband. Her first book, Une gourmandise, has been translated into twelve languages. It was published by Europa Editions in 2009.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is translated by Alison Anderson, author of two books Hidden Latitudes and Darwin's Wink. For Europa Editions she has translated two novels by Sélim Nassib and The Elegance of the Hedgehog. She lives near Lausanne, Switzerland.
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