Greetings from the South of France. We have stopped in Aix en Provence on our Around the World in 80 Days tour of the Imagination. Priority number 1: practice our French words mille-feuille, pain au chocolat, and beignets as we search for pastry. Pictured: a selection. Unfortunately pastries were harmed in collecting this photo.
Enjoying my perfect lemon tart, I’m reminded of Renee, a character in one of my favourite novels The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. You will need both a dictionary and kleenex to finish this translation of a French bestseller.
Hedgehog tells two stories. Paloma is an intelligent, wealthy, and depressed twelve year considering suicide. Renee is the reclusive landlady in Paloma's Parisian apartment. Renee pretends to be stupid to preserve her solitude, but spends her days consuming art, literature, philosophy, music and fine chocolate. The story alternates between the two interesting characters as they ponder the meaning of their lives and become friends. There is loss in this story to be sure, but the theme is that art, friendship, and French pastries make it all worthwhile.
Calgary Public Library has an excellent audio version of the story with two fine actresses reading the alternating parts. Using the Overdrive service, you can download the story onto your iPod. A perfect past time as you stroll along in the Camargue, walking off the pastries.