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The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an international bestseller by Muriel Barbery - originally written in French. This review contains no spoilers.

Having read (partially) a translated version of Battle Royale (originally in Japanese), I think I had lost faith in translations. But then maybe Battle Royale hadn't been a very well crafted book to start with, or Asian languages are harder to translate to English while maintain meaning and the beauty of the language all at once; but at any rate, The Elegance of the Hedgehog most certainly has reclaimed my faith in translations. The way the language of the text drew me in, I would have never suspected that it was a translated text, except that I had had that knowledge previously planted in my mind.

This is one of those novels where, instead of reading as fast as you can to find out what happens next, you want to read as slowly as you can, so you don't miss any of its intriguing detail. As a result you are embalmed in the rich perfection of its language. There are some things about life that are very hard to pinpoint in words - and in a way I feel Barbery came as close to defying this rule as any writer possibly could.

Now, I'm not going to pretend I understood everything that Barbery had to say, but the parts that I did understand, I understood with intensity - the sort of intensity you feel when you find a quote and it seems to summarise what you think of the world more perfectly than the thought itself. I suspect this is one of those books that you must own a copy of, so that you may revisit it later in life, and discover you understand a whole lot more of it, or that your previous understanding was shamefully childish - so every time I enter a book store from now on I will be in search for it. (My current copy is a library copy, and I can only enjoy it over the limited time its long reserve list will allow me to.)

Though I must confess, I have a feeling that my enthrallment by this novel is partly because of my weakness for anything that subverts the norms of society. So if you do not like such things then maybe it's not a book for you - but for everyone else with neutral opinions on the matter, it is definitely a book worth reading - even if you only understand it in part the first time you read it.

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