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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

May 9, 2013


This book is clearly driven by characters and maybe even more so by philosophy (although not at the expense of character). It reads as a pleasant and almost light (ironic given that one of the main characters is a 12-year-old girl who is planning to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. Spoiler alert – She doesn’t) exploration of the lives of those living at 7 Rue de Grenelle. But the last 50 or so pages reach much deeper and the beauty uncovered there seals any other cracks in the narrative.

Each of the main characters in this book has a gift for philosophizing, but my favorite comes from Paloma Josse, the aforementioned 12-year-old:

“So, we mustn’t forget any of this, absolutely not. We have to live with the certainty that we’ll get old and that it won’t look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that its now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength…and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying…and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity.”

By the way, I know that this in some ways sounds just like the vague nonsense that comes out of the self-help industry, but the beauty of the language more than makes up for that.

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