Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the New York Times
bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
In the heart of Paris, in the posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world, is dying. Revered by some and reviled by many, Monsieur Arthens has been lording it over the world's most esteemed chefs for years, passing judgment on their creations, deciding their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim. But now, during these his final hours, his mind has turned to simpler things. He is desperately searching for that singular flavor, that sublime something once sampled, never forgotten, the Flavor par excellence. Indeed, this flamboyant and self-absorbed man desires only one thing before he dies: one last taste.
Thus begins a charming voyage that traces the career of Monsieur Arthens from childhood to maturity across a celebration of all manner of culinary delights. Alternating with the voice of the supercilious Arthens is a chorus belonging to his acquaintances and familiars — relatives, lovers, a would-be protege, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about M. Arthens, a man who has inspired only extreme emotions in people. Here, as in The Elegance of Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery's story celebrates life's simple pleasures and sublime moments while condemning the arrogance and vulgarity of power.
"French novelist Barbery's sensuous first novel, being released here after the phenomenal success of her second novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, encompasses a series of witty reflections on the life and career of famous, unlovable French food critic Pierre Arthen, as he lies on his death bed desperate to recapture 'a forgotten flavor.' Lapsing through chapters into nostalgic memories of early, formative tastes, women and pets, Arthens reveals himself as a man driven by 'gastronomic ecstasies,' from his childhood impressions of eating grilled meat in Tangiers to summers gorging on fresh fish in Brittany. Alternating with these splendid remembrances are decidedly more salty commentary by his resentful children ('Die in your silk sheets, in your pasha's bed, in your bourgeois cage, die, die, die'); long-suffering wife, Anna; the exultant tramp outside his Paris apartment building whom he ignored for 10 years; even his faithful cat, Rick (named for the character in the film Casablanca). Barbery's debut, occasionally rough-edged and uneven in structure, showcases her lush and satisfying prose and sets the stage for what has come. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Barbery best expresses her talent, demonstrating sensitivity and profound understanding both of life's many flavors and of the ways of the human soul, with all its weaknesses and contradictions." Food & Beverage Magazine (Italy)
About the Author
Muriel Barbery was born in 1969 in Casablanca. She studied philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure and worked for many years as a philosophy teacher in France. Her New York Times bestselling novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa Editions 2008) has been published in over twenty languages. Barbery now lives in Japan and is working on a third novel.