Written by Muriel Barbery, it sold more than a million copies in France last year. Renée, 54 years-old building concierge with erudition in a posh neighborhood in Paris, is an autodidact who adores Tolstoy, a devotee of Japanese cinema and listens to Malher.
Paloma, 12 years-old teenager from a wealthy family living in the same building, plans to suicide on her 13th birthday while looking at the world in a sarcastic way.
Both scrutinize the life of their own and others in the most buoyant, airy way in which a melodious language conveys the philosophical and artistic consideration and social satire.
What made it so poignant and exalting of an impact was the fact that there was an unexpected element in it: the extraordinariness within the inconspicuous beings. The reason why it was so interesting to me was because it most elegantly articulated the little moments of life in such an exquisite way that I thought I couldn’t agree more. Also philosophy as applied to everyday life being one of my favorite themes made it purely delectable. It put smiles on my face and even moistened my eyes a bit at the end.
'To be poor, ugly and , moreover, intelligent condemns one, in our society, to a dark and disillusioned life, a condition one ought to accept at an early age', illustrates that Renée pretends to be far more stupid than she is like a domesticated work of art..
Renée, intellectually eclectic yet determined to cram her thoughts into a self-abnegating theory of life, resembles Berlin's description of Tolstoy, who was "by nature a fox, but believed in being a hedgehog".