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I must be the last person to read ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery. But I am not to blame for that. I have been trying to get this book for the past six months, and the bookstore, where I placed the order, has been giving me one reason or another on why the book hasn’t arrived yet. I had tried ordering it from three bookstores (of the same chain) and each of them had different reasons to give me! But finally, one of them had the book, and I dropped all the work I was doing, to get it 🙂 I started reading it yesterday and I have to say that every page of the book is a pleasure to read. It is too early for me to have an overall opinion on the book, but I will say that I am reading it very slowly, like I haven’t done in a very long time, and each page has gems in it. Here is one of my favourite passages that I read today from the book :

“Then when the New Zealand players began their haka, I got it. In their midst was this very tall Maori player, really young. I’d had my eye on him right from the start, probably because of his height to begin with but then because of the way he was moving. A really odd sort of movement, very fluid but above all very focused, I mean very focused within himself. Most people, when they move, well they just move depending on whatever’s around them. At this very moment, as I am writing, Constitution the cat is going by with her tummy dragging close to the door. This cat has absolutely nothing constructive to do in life and still she is heading toward something, probably an armchair. And you can tell from the way she’s moving : she is headed toward. Maman just went by in the direction of the front door, she’s going out shopping and in fact she already is out, her movement anticipating itself. I don’t really know how to explain it, but when we move, we are in a way de-structured by our movement toward something : we are both here and at the same time not here because we’re already in the process of going elsewhere, if you see what I mean. To stop de-structuring yourself, you have to stop moving altogether. Either you move and you’re no longer whole, or you’re whole and you can’t move. But that player, when I saw him go out onto the field, I could tell there was something different about him. I got the impression that he was moving, yes, but by staying in one place. Crazy, no? When the haka began, I concentrated on him. It was obvious he wasn’t like the others. Moreover, Cassoulet Number 1 said, “And Somu, the formidable New Zealand fullback – what an impressive player, with a colossal build : six foot eight, and two hundred and sixty pounds, runs a hundred meters in eleven seconds, a fine specimen indeed, ladies!” Everyone was enthralled by him but no one seemed to know why. Yet it became obvious in the haka : he was moving and making the same gestures as the other players (slapping the palms of his hands on his thighs, rhythmically drumming his feet on the ground, touching his elbows, and all the while looking the adversary in the eyes like a mad warrior) but while the others’ gestures went toward their adversaries and the entire stadium who were watching, this player’s gestures stayed inside him, stayed focused upon him, and that gave him an unbelievable presence and intensity. And so the haka, which is a warrior chant, gained all its strength from him. What makes the strength of a soldier isn’t the energy he uses trying to intimidate the other guy by sending him a whole lot of signals, it’s the strength he’s able to concentrate within himself, by staying centered. That Maori player was like a tree, a great indestructible oak with deep roots and a powerful radiance – everyone could feel it. And yet you also got the impression that the great oak could fly, that it would be as quick as the wind, despite, or perhaps because of, its deep roots.”

 – From ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery

(Comment : The player described in the above passage looks suspiciously like the legendary Jonah Lomu, the Rugby great from New Zealand. Also, I didn’t know that they played rugby in France!)

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