The Elegance of the Hedgehog


I was lucky to get tickets to The hedgehog movie during French movie festival in Boston’s MFA this summer. The movie is very new and was not shown in the States before. I wanted to see it because the movie is based on the book The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I read the book and I loved it. It is so special to me that I even participated in defending the book against harsh critics back in Oct 2010. I simply felt I had to do something after I read complete book’s review here http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/popfr/barbery.htm#ours. So I wrote:

“Hello,

I just read your review of the Elegance of the Hedgehog book by Muriel Barbery. I’m stunned – whoever wrote the review overlooked two important things that happened at the end of the book and kind of gave it the whole meaning. They are:

1. Paloma realized why she wanted to commit suicide: she didn’t want to be like her parents in their social class who are miserable and the most important that she couldn’t help them to be happy (her feeling of not being useful),

2. At the same time the death of Renee taught her and us, readers, that we do not have to die to find true value and beauty of our lives and the world around us, because Rene was doing it every day: appreciating little things and whatever we never thought was enough. We don’t have to die to learn to love life and people around us, even better – we can improve it by being kind to others.

I just want to mention that your review and rating (B. Had some appeal but annoyingly simplistic and reductive) seems simplistic to me.

Sincerely, Marina.”

“Dear Marina:

Thank you for your interest in the Complete Review, and for your comments.

I don’t know that Barbery conveyed those lessons very well: killing off Rene seems like far too easy a solution, and the character of Paloma was weakly written (of course her suicide-ambitions were all teenage melodrama — surely no one ever expected her to really kill herself). And Barbery’s obnoxious class-consciousness confuses the issue too: good and bad are painted far too black and white throughout the book, without any surprises (and finding ‘purity’ and nobleness in the exotic (the Japanese) also seems a terrible over-simplification).

Sincerely yours,

Michael Orthofer

Managing Editor, at the Complete Review and its Literary Saloon”

To find out if you agree with Michael or not, read the book and watch the movie, but the lessons I learned from both of them are:

  1. Try to appreciate life’s beauty in simple things
  2. Make sure you are useful and help others feel useful too
  3. We all are hiding, but want to be discovered and appreciated for what we are, start your discovery! 🙂
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