Muriel Barbery

Excerpts from The Elegance of the Hedgehog:

The Great Work of Making Meaning

“There is always the easy way out, although I am loath to use it. 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. Thus, as I have neither future nor progeny nor pixels to deaden the cosmic awareness of absurdity, and in the certainty of the end and the anticipation of the void, I believe I can affirm that I have not chosen the easy path.”

Profound Thought No. 9

“. . . this is the first time I have met someone who seeks out people and who sees beyond. That may seem trivial but I think it is profound all the same. We never look beyond our assumptions and, what’s worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves. We don’t recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were 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. . . . As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.”

Profound Thought No. 15

“You know what? I wonder if I haven’t missed something. A bit like someone who’s been hanging out with a bad crowd and then discovers another path through meeting a good person. . . . Sigh. I don’t know. This story is a tragedy, after all. ‘There are some worthy people out there, be glad!’ is what I felt like telling myself, but in the end, so much sadness! They end up in the rain. I really don’t know what to think. Briefly, I thought I had found my calling, I thought I’d understood that in order to heal, I could heal others, or at least the other “healable” people, the ones who can be saved – instead of moping because I can’t save other people. So what does this mean – I’m supposed to become a doctor? Or a writer? It’s a bit the same thing, no?”

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