The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Translated by Alison Anderson

Published: 2013 (First published 2006 in French as “L’Élégance du hérisson”) 1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Gallic Books 3. France background Image by Alexas_Fotos [Public Domain] via Pixabay 4. Building Image by DONT SELL MY ARTWORK AS IS [Public Domain] via Pixabay

In a luxury apartment building in Paris, where the main character Renee is concierge, the inhabitants all view her as uneducated and dull, a view reinforced by Renee who wants to stay in the background. In fact Renee is educated and cultured, and shares her interests with Paloma, the 12-year-old daughter of a family living in the building. When a new tenant called Kakuro moves in, the three form a close friendship.

“Madam Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she’s covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary – and terribly elegant.”

This reader found the endless philosophising very boring, whereas The Guardian: thought it “Clever, informative and moving”.


“And I also knew that rugby is a heavy sort of game, with men falling all over each other on the grass all the time only to stand up and fall down and get all tangled up a few feet further along.”

“The only purpose of cats is that they constitute mobile decorative objects, a concept which I find intellectually interesting, but, unfortunately, our cats have such drooping bellies that this does not apply to them.”

“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.”

Author: Muriel Barbery

Awards: BTBA Best Translated Book Award Nominee for Fiction Longlist (2009), Prix des Libraires (2007), Brive-La-Gaillarde Readers Prize (2007), French-American Foundation Translation Prize Nominee for Fiction (2008), Prix Georges Brassens (2006), International Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2010)

Adaptation: The novel was adapted into a film The Hedgehog (Le hérisson) released in France in July 2009.

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