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I first got to know about Muriel Barbery’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ more than a year back, when I read reviews of it in book blogs. The reviews I read raved about the book, and so I have been thinking of getting the book since then. But I could get the book only a couple of weeks back and I have been reading it for the past one week. I finished reading it today. Here is the review.

Summary of the story

I am giving below the summary of the story as given on the book’s inside flap.

We are in an elegant hôtel particulier in the center of Paris. Renée, the building’s concierge, is short, ugly, and plump. She has bunions on her feet. She is cantankerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renée has a secret : she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants – her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth. 

Then there’s Paloma, a super-smart twelve year old and the youngest daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startlingly lucid, she has come to terms with life’s seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a new tenant arrives, a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu. He befriends Paloma and is able to see through Renee’s timeworn disguise to the mysterious event that has haunted her since childhood. This is a moving, witty, and redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

  

What I think

What can I write about Muriel Barbery’s magnificent work? How can I, an inconspicuous reader, pass judgement on such a work of genius? But being the fool that I am, I am going to venture out to do just that.

First the bad news.

The plot of the story is extremely thin. It will probably occupy two pages. If it had been originally written in English, it would have been rejected by the publisher. I am glad that it was written in French. I am also glad that Muriel Barbery likes writing books with thin plots, but with great ideas, deep insights and beautiful prose. I love such books.

Another thing about the book which is bad news is this – the ending. Muriel Barbery, why did you do this? Exactly at the time when the reader is looking forward to some magic, you make her / him cry. Why? What is the pleasure that authors get by making readers sad? Is it because you subscribe to Shelley’s view that ‘Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts’?

One more complaint that I have about the book is that the potted biography of the author just says that she has written two books. How brief can biographies get? I was really disappointed with that. I did some research and found out that Muriel Barbery was born in Casablanca, studied philosophy in university and was a philosophy professor at the university when she wrote this book. I also discovered that she lives in Japan now and is working on her third book. We can see all these influences (philosophy and Japan) in ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’.

Muriel Barbery

Now that I have got the bad news out of the way, I can wax eloquently about the book 🙂 I think ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ is one of the best books that I have ever read in my life. The insights, ideas and wisdom that the author puts into the mind of the characters are amazing. Some of them were life’s lessons for me, which I had arrived at after a lot of experience of doing all the wrong things, observing things around and after a lot of contemplation. And then I read Muriel Barbery’s book and there are pages and pages of wisdom and insights and ideas – it was as if Barbery had read my mind! David Gilmour said this about ‘The Beatles’ in his book ‘The Film Club’ : “They had the extraordinary quality of making you feel as if, in spite of their hysterical popularity, you alone understood how great they were, that they were somehow your own private discovery.” This is exactly how I felt, when I was reading this book. It made me think a lot – where did it all come from? Did Barbery go through similar experiences that I did? Or did she go through different experiences, but were the insights she gained out of them the same as I arrived at? Or is she a contemplative genius who picks insights out of her platonic world and puts them in her novels, which we can relate to, after we have arrived at the same insights the hard way? Sometimes I wish I had written this book. I honestly feel that Barbery has stolen some of my lines 🙂

Now on the things that the book talks about. Within the cloak of a story, the book talks about such weighty topics like the meaning of life, love, friendship, art, good movies and soaps, the pleasures of Tolstoy and Russian literature before 1910, the pleasures of music, Japanese culture, autodidacts, philosophy (and philosophy and more philosophy), beauty, tea, bees and countless other beautiful subjects. (It will be impossible for me to list the topics that the book covers, in a few lines). Reading the book was like having a conversation with a wise friend, on serious topics. I was highlighting sentences and passages throughout the book – it was difficult to stop.

Having given the good and the bad news about the book, I will have to say that this book is not for everyone. If you are someone who reads for de-stressing after a hard day at work, or someone who expects a novel to have a plot and events which move the plot to an unexpected climax, this is not the book for you (though here the ending is unexpected). But if you are someone like me, who likes reading a sentence, reveling in its beauty and likes reading it again, contemplating on it and allowing your thoughts free rein before going to the next sentence, if you are someone who keeps going back and forth through the book comparing passages and if you are a person who enjoys digressions inspired by the book (like, for example, trying to get hold of Tolstoy’s book to see how Barbery’s description matches with what Tolstoy actually said, or trying to watch a video of a tea ceremony and experience the beauty of Barbery’s description there), then you will love reading this book. Also as a bonus there are cats named Constitution and Parliament in the book 🙂

Excerpts

I am giving below some of my favourite passages from the book.

Words and Deeds

  …humans live in a world where it’s words and not deeds that have power, where the ultimate skill is mastery of language. This is a terrible thing because basically we are primates who’ve been programmed to eat, sleep, reproduce, conquer and make our territory safe, and the ones who are most gifted at that, the most animal types among us, always get screwed by the others, the fine talkers, despite these latter being incapable of defending their own garden or bringing a rabbit home for dinner or procreating properly. Humans live in a world where the weak are dominant. This is a terrible insult to our animal nature, a sort of perversion or a deep contradiction.

Who is really on the leash?

…in town it is the dogs who have their masters on a leash, though no one seems to have caught on to the fact. If you have voluntarily saddled yourself with a dog that you’ll have to walk twice a day, come rain wind or snow, that is as good as having put a leash around your neck.

The Pleasurable Ritual of Tea

      I pour the tea and we sip in silence. We have never had our tea together in the morning, and this break with our usual protocol imbues the ritual with a strange flavor.

      Yes, this sudden transmutation in the order of things seems to enhance our pleasure, as if consecrating the unchanging nature of a ritual established over our afternoons together, a ritual that has ripened into a solid and meaningful reality. Today, because it has been transgressed, our ritual suddenly acquires all its power; we are tasting the splendid gift of this unexpected morning as if it were some precious nectar; ordinary gestures have an extraordinary resonance, as we breathe in the fragrance of the tea, savor it, lower our cups, serve more, and sip again : every gesture has the bright aura of rebirth. At moments like this the web of life is revealed by the power of ritual, and each time we renew our ceremony, the pleasure will be all the greater for our having violated one of its principles. Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls : fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn – and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry ways, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn : human life continues to throb.

      So, let us drink a cup of tea.

      Kakuzo Okakura, the author of the book Book of Tea, laments the rebellion of the Mongolian tribes in the thirteenth century not because it brought death and desolation but because it destroyed one of the creations of the Song dynasty, the most precious among them, the art of tea. Like Okakura, I know that tea is no minor beverage. When tea become ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?

      The tea ritual : such a precise repetition of the same gestures and the same tastes; accession to simple, authentic and refined sensations, a license given to all, at little cost, to become aristocrats of taste, because tea is the beverage of the wealthy and of the poor; the tea ritual, therefore, has the extraordinary virtue of introducing into the absurdity of our lives an aperture of serene harmony. Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends, one hears the wind outside, autumn leaves rustle and take flight, the cat sleeps in a warm pool of light. And, with each swallow, time is sublimed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog : on the outside, she’s covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog : a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary – and terribly elegant.

Offending and Communicating Doors

From the very first film I saw, Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, I was fascinated by the way the Japanese use space in their lives, and by these doors that slide and move quietly along invisible rails, refusing to offend space. For when we push open a door, we transform a place in a very insidious way. We offend its full extension, and introduce a disruptive and poorly proportioned obstacle. If you think about it carefully, there is nothing uglier than an open door. An open door introduces a break in the room, a sort of provincial interference, destroying the unity of space. In the adjoining room it creates a depression, an absolutely pointless gaping hole adrift in a section of wall that would have preferred to remain whole. In either case a door disrupts continuity, without offering anything in exchange other than freedom of movement, which could easily be ensured by other means. Sliding doors avoid such pitfalls and enhance space. Without affecting the balance of the room, they allow it to be transformed. When a sliding door is open, two areas communicate without offending each other. When it is closed, each regains its integrity. Sharing and reunion can occur without intrusion. Life becomes a quiet stroll – whereas our life, in the homes we have, seems like nothing so much as a long series of intrusions.

On Bees

…the queen bee, when she is ready, takes off on her nuptial flight, pursued by a cloud of drones. The first drone to reach her copulates with her, then dies, because after the act his genital organ remains stuck inside. So he is amputated and this kills him. The second drone to reach the queen, in order to copulate with her, has to remove the genital organ of the previous drone with his feelers and, of course, the same thing will happen to him, and so on and so forth until you end up with ten or fifteen drones who have filled up the queen’s sperm pouch and will enable her, in the course of four or five years, to produce two hundred thousand eggs a year.  

The Beauty of Involuntary Motion  

I am particularly fond of this scene, first of all because it takes place in Pokrovskoye, in the Russian countryside. Ah, the Russian countryside…there is a very special charm about such a place – it is wild and yet still bound to mankind through the land, mother to us all…The most beautiful scene in Anna Karenina is set at Pokrovskoye. Levin, dark and melancholy, is trying to forget Kitty. It is springtime, he goes off with the peasants to mow the fields. In the beginning the task seems to arduous for him. He is about to give up when the old peasant leading the row calls for a rest. Then they begin again with their scythes. Once again Levin is about to collapse from exhaustion, once again the old man raises his scythe. Rest. And then the row moves forward again, forty hands scything swaths and moving steadily toward the river as the sun rises. It is getting hotter and hotter, Levin’s arms and shoulders are soaked in sweat, but with each successive pause and start, his awkward, painful gestures become more fluid. A welcome breeze suddenly caresses his back. A summer rain. Gradually, his movements are freed from the shackles of his will, and he goes into a light trance which gives his gestures the perfection of conscious, automatic motion, without thought or calculation, and the scythe seems to move of its own accord. Levin delights in the forgetfulness that movement brings, where the pleasure of doing is marvelously foreign to the striving of the will.

       This is eminently true of many happy moments in life. Freed from the demands of decision and intention, adrift on some inner sea, we observe our various movements as if they belonged to someone else, and yet we admire their involuntary excellence. What other reason might I have for writing this – ridiculous journal of an aging concierge – if the writing did not have something of the art of scything about it? The lines gradually become their own demiurges and, like some witless yet miraculous participant, I witness the birth on paper of sentences, that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew nor thought I might want to know. This painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure, and with neither toil nor certainty but the joy of frank astonishment I follow the pen that is guiding and supporting me.

      In this way, in the full proof and texture of my self, I accede to a self-forgetfulness that borders on ecstasy, to savor the blissful calm of my watching consciousness.”

Rebelling against Destiny  

Indeed what constitutes life? Day after day, we put up the brave struggle to play our role in this phantom comedy. We are good primates, so we spend most of our time maintaining and defending our territory, so that it will protect and gratify us; climbing – or trying not to slide down – the tribe’s hierarchical ladder, and fornicating in every manner imaginable – even merely phantasms – as much for the pleasure of it as for the promised offspring. Thus we use up a considerable amount of our energy in intimidation and seduction, and these two strategies alone ensure the quest for territory, hierarchy and sex that gives life to our conatus. But none of this tuoches our consciousness. We talk about love, about good and evil, philosophy and civilization, and we cling to these respectable icons the way a tick clings to its nice big warm dog.

       There are times, however, when life becomes a phantom comedy. As if aroused from a dream, we watch ourselves in action and, shocked to realize how much vitality is required to support our primitive requirements, we wonder bewildered, where Art fits in. All our frenzied nudging and posturing suddenly becomes utterly insignificant; our cozy little nest is reduced to some futile barbarian custom, and our position in society, hard-won and eternally precarious, is but a crude vanity. As for our progeny, we view them now with new eyes, and we are horrified, because without the cloak of altruism, the reproductive act seems extraordinarily out of place. All that is left is sexual pleasure, but if it is relegated to a mere manifestation of primal abjection, it will fail in proportion, because a loveless session of gymnastics is not what we have struggled so hard to master.

      Eternity eludes us.

      At times like this, all the romantic, political, intellectual, metaphysical and moral beliefs that years of instruction and education have tried to inculcate in us seem to be foundering on the altar of our true nature, and society, a territorial field mined with the powerful charges of hierarchy, is sinking into the nothingness of Meaning. Exeunt rich and poor, thinkers, researchers, decision-makers, slaves, the good and the evil, the creative and the conscientious, trade unionists and individualists, progressives and conservatives; all have become primitive hominoids whose nudging and posturing, mannerisms and finery, language and codes are all located on the genetic map of an average primate, and all add up to no more than this : hold your rank, or die.

      At times like this you desperately need Art. You seek to reconnect with your spiritual illusions, and you wish fervently that something might rescue you from your biological destiny, so that all poetry and grandeur will not be cast out from the world.

 On Mothers and other things 

(Note : The following passage is some kind of spoiler. So, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to read it and don’t like spoilers, consider yourself sufficiently warned 🙂 I cried after I read this passage.)

       I remember all that rain…The sound of it drumming on the roof, the paths running with water, the sea of mud at the gate of the farm, the black sky, the wind, the horrible feeling of endless damp weighing upon us as our life weighed upon us : neither consciousness nor revolt. We are sitting huddled together by the fire when suddenly my mother got to her feet, throwing the rest of us off balance; we watched in surprise as, driven by some obscure impulse, she headed to the door and flung it open.

      All that rain, oh, all that rain…Framed in the door, motionless, her hair clinging to her face, her dress soaked through, her shoes caked with mud, staring lifelessly, stood Lisette. How did my mother know? How did this woman who, while never mistreating us, never showed us that she loved us, either by deed or word – how did this coarse woman who brought her children into the world in the same way she turned over the soil or fed the hens, this illiterate woman, so exhausted by life that she never even called us by the names she had given us – to the point where I at times wondered if she even remembered them – how had she known that her daughter, half-dead, neither moving nor speaking but merely staring at the door without even thinking of knocking, was just waiting in a relentless downpour for someone to open and bring her into the warm room?

      Is this a mother’s love, this intuition of disaster in one’s heart, this spark of empathy that resists even when human beings have been reduced to living like animals? That is what Lucien said : a mother who loves her children always knows when they are in trouble. Personally, I do not much care for this interpretation. Nor do I feel any resentment toward that mother who was not a mother. Poverty is a reaper : it harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day. Nor do I nurture any sturdy illusions : there was nothing of a mother’s love in my mother’s intuition, merely the translation into gesture of her certainty of misfortune. A sort of native consciousness, rooted deep in the heart, which serves to remind poor wretches like us that, on a rainy night, there will always be a daughter who has lost her honor and who will come home to die.

      Lisette lived just long enough to give birth to her child. The infant did what was expected of it : it died within three hours. From this tragedy, which to my parents seemed to be part of the natural order of things, so that they were no more – and no less – moved by it than if they had lost a goat, I derived two certainties : the strong live and the weak die, and their pleasure and suffering are proportionate to their position in the hierarchy. Lisette had been beautiful and poor, I was intelligent and indigent, but like her I was doomed to a similar punishment if I ever sought to make good use of my mind in defiance of my class. Finally, as I could not cease to be who I was, either, it became clear to me that my path would be one of secrecy : I had to keep silent about who I was, and never mix with that other world.

      From being silent, I then became clandestine.

Further Reading

You can read the review by Emily, that originally inspired me to read this book, here.  

You can find out what Bina was doing when she read this book by clicking here 🙂 (Pictures are better than a thousand words, aren’t they?)  

You can read about Mrs.B’s experience of re-reading the book, here.

Final Thoughts

I loved ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’. It is a book that I hope to read again (and again). Highly recommended (subject to the caveat above). I can’t wait to read Muriel Barbery’s ‘Gourmet Rhapsody’ now.

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I am continuing to read ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery. I am still reading it slowly and there are beautiful lines and passages in every page or every alternate page.  

There are ‘hard’ passages like this, which have a lot of insights and make us think :

      “Indeed what constitutes life? Day after day, we put up the brave struggle to play our role in this phantom comedy. We are good primates, so we spend most of our time maintaining and defending our territory, so that it will protect and gratify us; climbing – or trying not to slide down – the tribe’s hierarchical ladder, and fornicating in every manner imaginable – even merely phantasms – as much for the pleasure of it as for the promised offspring. Thus we use up a considerable amount of our energy in intimidation and seduction, and these two strategies alone ensure the quest for territory, hierarchy and sex that gives life to our conatus. But none of this tuoches our consciousness. We talk about love, about good and evil, philosophy and civilization, and we cling to these respectable icons the way a tick clings to its nice big warm dog.

      There are times, however, when life becomes a phantom comedy. As if aroused from a dream, we watch ourselves in action and, shocked to realize how much vitality is required to support our primitive requirements, we wonder bewildered, where Art fits in. All our frenzied nudging and posturing suddenly becomes utterly insignificant; our cozy little nest is reduced to some futile barbarian custom, and our position in society, hard-won and eternally precarious, is but a crude vanity. As for our progeny, we view them now with new eyes, and we are horrified, because without the cloak of altruism, the reproductive act seems extraordinarily out of place. All that is left is sexual pleasure, but if it is relegated to a mere manifestation of primal abjection, it will fail in proportion, because a loveless session of gymnastics is not what we have struggled so hard to master.

      Eternity eludes us.

      At times like this, all the romantic, political, intellectual, metaphysical and moral beliefs that years of instruction and education have tried to inculcate in us seem to be foundering on the altar of our true nature, and society, a territorial field mined with the powerful charges of hierarchy, is sinking into the nothingness of Meaning. Exeunt rich and poor, thinkers, researchers, decision-makers, slaves, the good and the evil, the creative and the conscientious, trade unionists and individualists, progressives and conservatives; all have become primitive hominoids whose nudging and posturing, mannerisms and finery, language and codes are all located on the genetic map of an average primate, and all add up to no more than this : hold your rank, or die.

      At times like this you desperately need Art. You seek to reconnect with your spiritual illusions, and you wish fervently that something might rescue you from your biological destiny, so that all poetry and grandeur will not be cast out from the world.”

And there are ‘soft’ passages like this which are lyrical and poetic and give us a lot of joy and pleasure :

      “I am particularly fond of this scene, first of all because it takes place in Pokrovskoye, in the Russian countryside. Ah, the Russian countryside…there is a very special charm about such a place – it is wild and yet still bound to mankind through the land, mother to us all…The most beautiful scene in Anna Karenina is set at Pokrovskoye. Levin, dark and melancholy, is trying to forget Kitty. It is springtime, he goes off with the peasants to mow the fields. In the beginning the task seems to arduous for him. He is about to give up when the old peasant leading the row calls for a rest. Then they begin again with their scythes. Once again Levin is about to collapse from exhaustion, once again the old man raises his scythe. Rest. And then the row moves forward again, forty hands scything swaths and moving steadily toward the river as the sun rises. It is getting hotter and hotter, Levin’s arms and shoulders are soaked in sweat, but with each successive pause and start, his awkward, painful gestures become more fluid. A welcome breeze suddenly caresses his back. A summer rain. Gradually, his movements are freed from the shackles of his will, and he goes into a light trance which gives his gestures the perfection of conscious, automatic motion, without thought or calculation, and the scythe seems to move of its own accord. Levin delights in the forgetfulness that movement brings, where the pleasure of doing is marvelously foreign to the striving of the will.

      This is eminently true of many happy moments in life. Freed from the demands of decision and intention, adrift on some inner sea, we observe our various movements as if they belonged to someone else, and yet we admire their involuntary excellence. What other reason might I have for writing this – ridiculous journal of an aging concierge – if the writing did not have something of the art of scything about it? The lines gradually become their own demiurges and, like some witless yet miraculous participant, I witness the birth on paper of sentences, that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew nor thought I might want to know. This painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure, and with neither toil nor certainty but the joy of frank astonishment I follow the pen that is guiding and supporting me.

      In this way, in the full proof and texture of my self, I accede to a self-forgetfulness that borders on ecstasy, to savor the blissful calm of my watching consciousness.”

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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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