Quotes from The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Good quotes from the book The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, via this review:

"I have no children, I do not watch television, and I do not believe in God — all paths taken by mortals to make their lives easier. Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives: by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease."

"And here I am now and my tiny bladder has just reminded me of its existence. Painfully aware that I have imbibed liters of tea that very afternoon, I cannot ignore its message: reduced autonomy."

"The peace of mind one experiences on one's own, one's certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship."

"We don't recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were able to become aware of the fact that we are only ever looking at ourselves in the other person, that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy."

"In our world, that's the way you live your grown-up life: you must constantly rebuild your identity as an adult, the way it's been put together is wobbly, ephemeral, and fragile, it cloaks despair and, when you're alone in front of the mirror, it tells you the lies you need to believe."

6 Responses to Quotes from The Elegance of the Hedgehog

  1. John J. Walters says:

    The first quote is absolutely gorgeous. Too true.

  2. Erik says:

    That book is the best fiction I’ve read this year. Amazing ending. Have you read his other book? It’s in the middle of my list right now.

  3. tim says:

    isn’t Muriel Barbery a ‘she’ these days?

  4. My dear Ben, I didn’t have to do that double dose of Cid today to see that The Elegance of the Hedgehog would read better in French. The title alone makes that clear.

    In English, these are some of the lamest and most inelegant expressions I’ve ever read.

    I’d much rather talk in robust Anglo-Saxon idiom to that leathery old wino on the street corner about sailing in his Kant-free zone than to spend thirty seconds listening to this existentially-challenged interior monologue.

    That kind of aesthetic intellectual masturbation only sounds good in French anyway, but it’s just as meaningless.

    Who needs it?

    I didn’t read a single passage among Young’s favorite bits that rang true to anything in my experience.

    What ever happened to just being here now, content with the reality of the moment, something that a sane person can appreciate even when the walls have dissolved into fractals?

    All my brain wants is a good old-fashioned English blow-job, not a tortuous Gallic tongue-tease by way of translation.;-)

  5. Ian K says:

    Seems like an interesting book.

    Existensialism aside, how about simply enjoying living. What are we? An useful belief for our genes. Human pleasures are what I evolved to like and that is fine by me.

  6. Maria S says:

    All lovely and well-written quotes, but I do take issue with this: “Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them.”

    Anyone who has children knows that children force their parents to confront themselves. Seeing yourself in your child’s eyes is an excellent motivator for personal examination and change.

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