Friday, March 18, 2011

The elegance of the hedgehog

Robert Adams is a book reviewer from Canada. He was born in Wales in 1937, which he frequently reminds us of in his talks, but came to Canada a life time ago in 1964. He features, from time to time, on the podcast Big Ideas where he lectures extensively reviewing a book that by virtue of that lecture, you immediately begin to love. (feed)

The latest subject of this elation was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from French into English). Adams retells the tale of the twelve year old girl from the haughty Parisian upper class, the concierge in their luxurious apartment building and the new tenant from Japan. It is not just the drama of the people who won't fit in and the youngster planning her suicide. Barbery is a philosopher and the novel, as Adams tries to reveal, is a vehicle of her ideas about the good life and the lies, big and small, of society.

Robert Adams's enthusiasm is contagious. As with the previous reviews, you are drawn in by how compelling he retells the story, convinced by his interpretations and in the end you feel you have read the book with him. The only thing that remains is to re-read it alone. Adams not only makes you appreciate a certain piece of literature, he makes you love and teaches you to close-read literature in general.

More Big Ideas:
Age of Unequals,
Dan Dennett: what should replace religion?,
Chris Hedges,
Needham about China,
The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
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