Only 12 people bought copies of Muriel Barbery’s second book during its first week on sale in France in 2006, but it’s fair to say that things picked up. From a slow start, the book, L'Élégance du hérisson (in English: The Elegance of the Hedgehog) gained extraordinary momentum: it has since been translated into 40 languages, selling more than a millions copies. The novel highlighted class divides and hypocrisy in contemporary France, and was striking for its wry satire and eclectic array of references from philosophy and literature to Hollywood blockbusters and manga.
Barbery, a philosophy teacher as well as a writer, is a slightly reluctant literary star and has taken her time working towards her next book. The Life of Elves comes eight years after Barbery’s last and again touches on the links between art, imagination and identity – this, time, with an element of magical realism.
Join this singular voice in French literature for a discussion of philosophy, creativity and literary translation.
In conversation with Michael Williams.
Muriel Barbery’s visit is supported by the Embassy of France and Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.
Muriel Barbery was born in Morocco in 1969. She is the author of two previous novels, Gourmet Rhapsody and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which sold over six million copies worldwide and was described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’. She lives in France and is working on the sequel to The Life of Elves.
Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. He has worked at the Wheeler Centre since inception in 2009, when he was hired as the Head of Programming before being appointed as Director in September 2011.
He has hosted Blueprint for Living (2015–2016), then Talkfest (2017–2019), on ABC RN. He remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for the Guardian, the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian and elsewhere.