«Être maire de Paris, c'est aimer les concierges et les stars, parce que les concierges sont les stars de notre quotidien!" (Greco). Before Anne Hidalgo aligned the commonplace French apartment caretaker with celebrated icons of the stage and screen during her 2014 Paris mayoral campaign, the Parisian concierge had never stood so high upon a pedestal. The closest the French concierge had come to such limelight was perhaps the fictionalized representation of the working-class figure in Muriel Barbery's 2006 novel, L' élégance du hérisson. The newspaper Libération described Barbery' s novel as France's "surprise bestseller of the year" (Lançon) with 346,000 copies sold in less than a year after its release. Further attesting to its popularity, the novel was promptly adapted for the big screen by Mona Achache as Le Hérisson in 2009. It has since experienced international acclaim with over 6,000,000 copies sold worldwide (Lichfield) and has established its academic cachet in the United States and Canada, turning up as required reading on various syllabi in a myriad of disciplines from (the obvious) French literature and culture courses to (somewhat more surprising) philosophy and English grammar courses.
This document was originally published in Dalhousie French Studies by French Department, Dahousie University. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Devereux Herbeck, Mariah. (2018). "(Re)casting the Concierge in Muriel Barbery's L' Élégance du Hérisson". Dalhousie French Studies, 112.