Excerpt from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 336 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Therefore, I am headed slowly toward the date of June sixteenth and I'm not afraid. A few regrets, maybe. But the world, in its present state, is no place for princesses. Having said that, simply because you've made plans to die doesn't mean you have to vegetate like some rotting piece of cabbage. Quite the contrary. The main thing isn't about dying or how old you are when you die, it's what you are doing the moment you die. In Taniguchi the heroes die while climbing Mount Everest. Since I haven't the slightest chance of taking a stab at K2 or the Grandes Jorasses before June sixteenth, my own personal Everest will be an intellectual endeavor. I have set as my goal to have the greatest number possible of profound thoughts, and to write them down in this notebook: even if nothing has any meaning, the mind, at least, can give it a shot, don't you think? But since I have this big Japanese thing, I've added one requirement: these profound thoughts have to be formulated like a little Japanese poem: either a haiku (three verses) or a tanka (five verses).

My favorite haiku is by Basho.

<"p class="blockquote"> The fisherman's hut
Mixed with little shrimp
Some crickets!

Now that's no goldfish bowl, is it, that's what I call poetry!

But in the world I live in there is less poetry than in a Japanese fisherman's hut. And do you think it is normal for four people to live in fifteen hundred square feet when tons of other people, perhaps some poètes maudits among them, don't even have a decent place to live and are crammed together fifteen or twenty in seventy square feet? When, this summer, I heard on the news that some Africans had died because a fire had started in the stairway of their rundown tenement, I had an idea. Those Africans have the goldfish bowl right there in front of them, all day long — they can't escape through storytelling. But my parents and Colombe are convinced they're swimming in the ocean just because they live in their fifteen hundred square feet with their piles of furniture and paintings.

So, on June sixteenth I intend to refresh their pea-brain memories: I'm going to set fire to the apartment (with the barbecue lighter). Don't get me wrong, I'm not a criminal: I'll do it when there's no one around (the sixteenth of June is a Saturday and on Saturday Colombe goes to see Tibère, Maman is at yoga, Papa is at his club and as for me, I stay home), I'll evacuate the cats through the window and I'll call the fire department early enough so that there won't be any victims. And then I'll go off quietly to Grandma's with my pills, to sleep. With no more apartment and no more daughter, maybe they'll give some thought to all those dead Africans, don't you suppose?

Excerpted from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, translated from the French by Alison Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.