Novelists make assumptions about their readers’ interest in technical details, whether they’re writing about sabotage, romance or philosophy. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is written by a philosophy professor who assumes we want to know the technical details of her two main character’s struggle to find a philosophy of life that they can live with. Technical discussions — about phenomenology, for example — are interspersed with conversations about art and social class. You might think this book has a small audience, but it’s a best-seller in Europe, and has sold a million copies. I’ve read it three times and find it astonishing.
Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, translated by Alison Anderson, (New York, Europa Editions, 2006), p. 96.