The Elegance of the Hedgehog Highlights

by Muriel Barbery

So much for Kantian idealism. What we know of the world is only the idea that our consciousness forms of it.

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But enough of phenomenology: it is nothing more than the solitary, endless monologue of consciousness, a hard-core autism that no real cat would ever importune.

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The Hunt for Red October is the film of our last embrace.

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you’ve seen Tokyo-Ga, which is an extraordinary documentary devoted to Ozu, then obviously you want to find out more about Ozu.

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fascinating phenomenon: the ability we have to manipulate ourselves so that the foundation of our beliefs is never shaken.

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Let me repeat it, so that there is no cause for ambiguity: The cat comma is sleeping. The cat, is sleeping. Would you be so kind as, to sign for.

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Finally, Sabine Pallières’s misuse of punctuation constitutes an instance of blasphemy that is all the more insidious when one considers that there are marvelous poets born in stinking caravans or high-rise slums who do have for beauty the sacred respect that it is so rightfully owed.

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But if you dread tomorrow, it’s because you don’t know how to build the present, and when you don’t know how to build the present, you tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow, and it’s a lost cause anyway because tomorrow always ends up becoming today, don’t you see?

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All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way is the first line in Anna Karenina

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As for Madame Michel . . . how can we tell? She radiates intelligence. And yet she really makes an effort, like, you can tell she is doing everything she possibly can to act like a concierge and come across as stupid.

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Madame 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.

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Sliding doors avoid such pitfalls and enhance space. Without affecting the balance of the room, they allow it to be transformed. When a sliding door is open, two areas communicate without offending each other.

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In general, for that particular stratum, I resort to jazz or, more effective overall but longer to take effect: Dire Straits (long live my mp3 player).

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“The point is to make us speak and write well.” I thought I would have a heart attack there and then. I have never heard anything so grossly inept. And by that, I don’t mean it’s wrong, just that it is grossly inept.

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At the door stands a courier, chewing on what must be a piece of gum for elephants, given the vigor and range of mandibular activity to which he is compelled.

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In Japanese wabi means “an understated form of beauty, a quality of refinement masked by rustic simplicity.”

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The guy says “hmmm” at regular intervals, and repeats the end of her sentences (“And I went to Lenôtre’s with my mother”: “Hmmm, your mother?” “I do so like chocolate.”: “Hmmm, chocolate?”).

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Conclusion: better to be a thinking monk than a post-modern thinker.

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There’s so much humanity in a love of trees,

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When the music stops, everyone applauds, their faces all lit up, the choir radiant. It is so beautiful. In the end, I wonder if the true movement of the world might not be a voice raised in song.

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And thirdly, it’s a really weird way of looking at life to want to become an adult by imitating everything that is most catastrophic about adulthood.

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But Chardin’s entire oeuvre does not equal one single master work of Dutch painting from the seventeenth century.

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The confirmation that certain forms, in the particular aspect that their creators have given them, return again and again throughout the history of art

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For art is emotion without desire.

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Yes, it’s time to leave a world where something that moves can reveal something so ugly.

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and although I love Manuela like a sister, I cannot share with her the things that constitute the tiny portion of meaning and emotion that my incongruous existence has stolen from the universe.

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Every day I tell myself that my sister cannot possibly sink any further into the slough of disgrace and, every day, I am amazed to see that she does.

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Therefore, we have invented Art: our animal selves have devised another way to ensure the survival of our species.

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What is the purpose of intelligence if it is not to serve others?

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The only thing that matters is your intention: are you elevating thought and contributing to the common good, or rather joining the ranks in a field of study whose only purpose is its own perpetuation, and only function the self-reproduction of a sterile elite—for this turns the university into a sect.

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If Colombe were my daughter—Darwin forbid—I would have slapped her on both cheeks.

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it makes Hélène, who is playing at nobody at all, and who is content with what she has, seem really likeable.

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This is the death of Dido, from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. In my opinion, the most beautiful music for the human voice on earth.

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When did I first feel so blissfully relaxed in the presence of a man? Today is the first time.

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the strong live and the weak die, and their pleasure and suffering are proportionate to their position in the hierarchy.

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That’s Eminem. I confess that, in my capacity as prophet of the contemporary elite, I do on occasion listen to him when I can no longer ignore the fact that Dido has perished.

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“Thank you,” I manage to whisper. “We can be friends,” he says. “We can be anything we want to be.”

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For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word never. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real “never again.”

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