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Gourmet Rhapsody

Gourmet Rhapsody

Автор Muriel Barbery

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Gourmet Rhapsody

Автор Muriel Barbery

оценки:
3/5 (324 оценки)
Длина:
133 страницы
2 часа
Издано:
25 авг. 2009 г.
ISBN:
9781609452216
Формат:

Описание

A French food critic faces his mortality in an “entertaining [and] witty” novel by the New York Times–bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Newsday).

In the heart of Paris, in the same posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Pierre Arthens, 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 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 protégé, 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 the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery’s story celebrates life’s simple pleasures and sublime moments while condemning the arrogance and vulgarity of power.

“Lush and satisfying prose.” —Publishers Weekly
Издано:
25 авг. 2009 г.
ISBN:
9781609452216
Формат:

Об авторе

Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and the bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide and been described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’.


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Gourmet Rhapsody - Muriel Barbery

To Stéphane, without whom . . .

Flavor

Rue de Grenelle, the Bedroom

When I took possession of the table, it was as supreme monarch. We were kings, the suns of those few hours of banqueting, who would determine their futures and describe their horizons—tragically limited or mouth-wateringly distant and radiant—as chefs. I would stride into the room the way a consul entered the arena, and I would give the order for the feast to begin. Those who have never tasted the intoxicating nectar of power cannot imagine the sudden explosion of adrenaline that radiates throughout the body, releasing a harmony of movement, erasing all fatigue, along with any reality that does not bend to the orders of your pleasure; the ecstasy of unbridled power, when one need no longer struggle but merely enjoy the spoils of battle, and savor without cease the headiness that comes with inspiring fear.

That is who we were, and how we reigned as lords and masters over the finest establishments in France, filled with the excellence of the dishes, with our own glory, and with our unquenchable desire—like a hunting dog’s first, excited flair—to pronounce upon that excellence.

I am the greatest food critic in the world. It is I who has taken this minor art and raised it to a rank of utmost prestige. Everyone knows my name, from Paris to Rio, Moscow to Brazzaville, Saigon to Melbourne and Acapulco. I have made, and unmade, reputations, and at sumptuous banquets I have been the knowing and merciless maître d’oeuvre, expediting to the four corners of the globe the salt or honey of my pen, to newspapers and broadcasts and various forums, where I have been repeatedly invited to discourse upon that which previously had been reserved for a few select specialized journals or intermittent weekly chronicles. I have, for all eternity, pinned to my list of discoveries some of the most prestigious butterflies among practicing chefs. The glory and the demise of Partais, or the fall of Sangerre, or the increasingly incandescent success of Marquet can be attributed to me alone. For all eternity, indeed, I have made them what they are; for all eternity.

I have held eternity under the skin of my words, and tomorrow I shall die. I shall die in forty-eight hours—unless I have been dying for sixty-eight years and it is only today that I have deigned to notice. Whatever the case may be, the verdict was handed down yesterday by my friend the physician Chabrot: Old boy, you’ve got forty-eight hours. How ironic! After decades of grub, deluges of wine and alcohol of every sort, after a life spent in butter, cream, rich sauces, and oil in constant, knowingly orchestrated and meticulously cajoled excess, my trustiest right-hand men, Sir Liver and his associate Stomach, are doing marvelously well and it is my heart that is giving out. I am dying of a cardiac insufficiency. What a bitter pill to swallow! So often have I reproached others for a lack of heart in their cuisine, in their art, that never for a moment did I think that I might be the one lacking therein, this heart now betraying me so brutally, with scarcely concealed disdain, so quickly has the blade been sharpened . . .

I am going to die, but that is of no importance. Since yesterday, since Chabrot, only one thing matters. I am going to die and there is a flavor that has been teasing my taste buds and my heart and I simply cannot recall it. I know that this particular flavor is the first and ultimate truth of my entire life, and that it holds the key to a heart that I have since silenced. I know that it is a flavor from childhood or adolescence, an original, marvelous dish that predates my vocation as a critic, before I had any desire or pretension to expound on my pleasure in eating. A forgotten flavor, lodged in my deepest self, and which has surfaced at the twilight of my life as the only truth ever told—or realized. I search, and cannot find.

(Renée)

Rue de Grenelle, the Concierge’s Loge

And now what? Is it not enough for them that every day the Good Lord gives us I clean up the muck that falls from their rich people’s shoes, I vacuum the dust they stir up during their rich people’s deambulations, I listen to their rich people’s conversations and concerns, I feed their mutts, their cats, water their plants, wipe the noses of their offspring, accept their yearly gifts of money—and that is indeed the only moment when they don’t play at being rich—I sniff their perfume, I open the door to their relatives, I hand out their mail dripping with bank statements regarding their rich-people accounts and investments and overdrafts, I force myself to smile in response to their rich-people smiles, and, finally, I live in their rich-people building, me, the concierge, a nobody-at-all, a thing behind a window that people say hello to in great haste to ease their conscience, because it’s awkward, isn’t it, to see that old thing lurking in her dark little hole without any crystal chandeliers, without any patent-leather slippers, without any camel’s-hair overcoat, it’s awkward but at the same time it’s reassuring, like some incarnation of the social differences that justify the superiority of their class, like an ugly thing exalting their munificence, like a foil enhancing their elegance—no, all that is not enough, because in addition to all that, in addition to leading this existence as an unbecoming recluse day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, and what’s worst of all, year after year, I am expected to understand their rich-people’s sorrows?

If they want to have news of the Mâââître, let them ring at his bell.

The Man of Property

Rue de Grenelle, the Bedroom

If I go back to my earliest memories, I find that I have always liked eating. I cannot pinpoint exactly my first gastronomic ecstasies, but there is no doubt as to the identity of my first preferred cook: my own grandmother. On the menu for celebrations there was meat in gravy, potatoes in gravy, and the wherewithal to mop up all that gravy. I never knew, subsequently, whether it was my childhood or the stews themselves that I was unable to re-experience, but never again have I sampled as fervently (I am the specialist of such oxymorons) as at my grandmother’s table the likes of those potatoes: bursting with gravy, delectable little sponges. Might the forgotten taste throbbing in my breast be hidden somewhere in there? Might it suffice to ask Anna to let a few tubers marinate in the juices of a good traditional coq au vin? Alas, I know only too well that it would not. I know that what I am searching for is something that has always eluded my talents, my memory, my consideration. Extravagant pots-au-feu, poulets chasseur to make one faint, dizzying coqs au vin , astounding blanquettes —you have all been the companions of my carnivorous and saucy childhood. I cherish you, amiable casseroles with your fragrance of game—but you are not what I am seeking in this moment.

Despite those early, always faithful, love affairs, in later years my tastes turned to other culinary destinations, and with the additional delight occasioned by the certainty of my own eclecticism, my love of the stew came to be replaced by the urgent call of more austere sensations. The soft, delicate touch on the palate of one’s first sushi no longer holds any secrets for me, and I bless the day my tongue discovered the intoxicating, almost erotic, velvet-smooth caress of an oyster slipping in after a chunk of bread smeared with salted butter. I have dissected the magical delicacy of the oyster with such brilliance and finesse that the divine mouthful has become a religious act for all. Between these two extremes—the rich warmth of a daube and the clean crystal of shellfish, I have covered the entire range of culinary art, for I am an encyclopedic esthete who is always one dish ahead of the game—but always one heart behind.

I can hear Paul and Anna speaking in hushed voices in the corridor. I peer through my eyelids. My gaze, as usual, encounters the perfect curve of a sculpture by Fanjol, a birthday present from Anna on my sixtieth birthday; it seems such a long time ago. Paul comes quietly into the room. Of all my nephews and nieces, he is he only one I love and respect, the only one whose presence I can tolerate during the final hours of my life. Therefore, before I can no longer speak at all, I have taken him—along with my wife—into my confidence regarding my distress.

A dish? A dessert? asked Anna, with a sob in her voice.

I cannot bear to see her like this. I love my wife, as I have always loved the beautiful objects in my life. That is the way it is. I have lived as a man of property, and I shall die as one, with neither qualms nor sentimental indulgence; nor do I regret having accumulated property or having conquered souls and beings as if I were acquiring an expensive painting. A work of art has a soul. It cannot be reduced to a simple mineral existence, to the lifeless elements of which it consists. Perhaps because I know this I have never felt the least bit ashamed of considering Anna the most beautiful work of all—this woman who for forty years has used her finely chiseled beauty and her dignified tenderness to enliven the chambers of my realm.

I do not like to see her cry. On the threshold of my death I feel that she is waiting for something, that she suffers for the imminent end looming on the horizon of the coming

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  • (3/5)
    A famous food critic, a man who has spent his life thinking about food and pursuing flavors, lays dying in his Paris apartment. He recalls tasting food and drink with a passion usually given to love, and his wife and children are the worse for it.Yes, here comes the invariable comparison to Barbery's earlier The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I like that book so much, and so the description of her follow-up, about the dying food critic mentioned in TEOTH, sounded great. But the prose is so over-the-top florid that it becomes exhausting. For instance, the thought of having a drink of whiskey takes up two and a half pages. Chewing bread is described likewise. It isn't bad, but I don't love it either.
  • (5/5)
    Pierre Arthens, the famous food critic from Barbery’s second novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, is very close to death. He remains in his bed throughout Gourmet Rhapsody. His family is little comfort, as he has been of little comfort to them in his life. Arthens doesn’t love his children. “I have never loved them, and I feel no remorse on that account.” He ignores his wife, Anna, but she loves the “charmer with insane, miraculous talent ; a prince, a lord constantly hunting outside his own walls.” As one of his mistresses says: “No doubt about it, he was a regular bastard.”Arthen’s only wish in his last hours is one last taste of a food he can’t quite name, a “lost flavor,” “the buried flavor that I cannot find.” Although his love of food stems from his grandmother’s cooking, “under the influence of her expert hands, the most banal substances were transformed into miracles of faith,” all of his passion was directed to the sensation and taste of food, none was left for his family.Chapters alternate between Arthens remembering past meals, tastes, and cooks from his life; and his family, mistresses and employees offering their opinions on Arthens and his impending death. As with Hedgehog, the translation by Alison Anderson is sublime. The writing about food is lyrical. “The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked, is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure.” A rare whiskey has “such formidable aggressiveness, such a muscular, abrupt explosion, dry and fruity at the same time.” Sashimi is “neither matter nor water,” “a fragment of the cosmos within reach of one’s heart.”
  • (3/5)
    Sumptuous language (in French) but not much substance. A not-so-nice celebrity food and restaurant critic lies on his death bed, searching for an illusive taste experience from the past. In his search, he combs through various episodes and relationships from his life that might reveal the hidden treasure. Such memories are interwoven with views of the dying man from the perspective of everyone from the concierge to a statue of Venus in his study. Of course, passing by way of all the affected and disaffected members of his family and entourage (including the pets). In the moments just before death, when the man finally recalls the gourmandise that he has been yearning for, the pay-off for the reader is negligible. Addendum: the other members of my French book group appreciated this novel quite a bit more than I did, so much so that I'm tempted to revise my opinion and award the book another star. [After rereading the novel for a class, I'm awarding it one more star, based on an even greater appreciation of the language. My estimation of the novel as novel, however, remains the same. If the point of the novel is that it's the simple joys that make life meaningful or that one can only make sense of one' s life if one returns to childhood to rediscover what really mattered then, then the book's message is simply a cliche. I prefer to see the book's intentions as ironic. Yes, the dying food critic finally remembers the "savour" that he has been searching his memory for and it turns out to be that of supermarket chouquettes, an industrial pastry. It is quite "juste" that what he rediscovers as his purest joy turns out to be something artificial, of little value, in keeping with his failure to love and to value his wife, children, lovers, etc or to make good use of his talents. His joys, in essence, have always been artificial or misguided ones. He dies as he has lived. So his god turns out to be a chouqette. So what? I don't see any redemption in this. I think the author has been poking sharp fun at the academic and literary establishment all along. Of course, I could be dead wrong. Perhaps her aims were serious ones, in which case, she succeeded in expressing cliches in very sumptuous language. Bravo for the language, but I'd rather the irony, the poke in the eye.:]
  • (3/5)
    It would take a reader with strong willpower to get to the end of The Gourmet by Muriel Barbery without drooling. The book really should come with one of those Government- style warnings on the front: Read only when you’re not hungry.It could be Barbery’s description of the sweet yet sharp smoky flavour of grilled sardines or her evocation of sashimi whose texture is “velvet dust, verging on silk” that gets you salivating. Perhaps however your tastes run more to:Pan roasted breast of Peking duck rubbed with berbère; grapefruit crumble à la Jamaïque with shallot confit.This is the world of Pierre Arthens, the greatest food critic in France. He has two days left to live, two days in which to find the answer to a question that torments him — what is the most delicious food he has ever eaten. He knows it’s a flavour from his childhood or adolescence, a time many years before he took up his vocation. It’s a flavour that he feels represents the truth of his whole life. He recollects meals eaten au plein air with some farmers, lunches at his grandparent’s house, a stand up snack in the kitchen of one of the world’s leading chefs and mezze dishes in a tiny restaurant in Tangiers. While he scans his memory, those who know him give their opinions on his character.No-one it seems likes him very much, neither his wife, his children or his mistress. Not even the cat who Arthens adores, has a good word to say for him. In their eyes he’s just a cold, arrogant and self centered man who has put his love of food above everything else in his life. By the end of the book you realise that the story isn’t about food at all; it’s about obsession and pride.This is a portrait of a deeply flawed character. The style verges towards the florid but that’s the nature of food writing anyway and Barbery mixes it with some snatches of black humour“How ironic! After decades of grub, deluges of wine and alcohol of every sort, after a life spent in butter, cream, rich sauces, and oil in constant, knowingly orchestrated and meticulously cajoled excess, my trustiest right-hand men, Sir Liver and his associate Stomach, are doing marvelously well and it is my heart that is giving out. I am dying of cardiac insufficiency. What a bitter pill to swallow.”I enjoyed it for what it was but wasn’t that hooked because the character of Arthens wasn’t developed enough. We never got to understand why this man was so self centered and obnoxious, nor why his wife stuck around with him or why he was so revered. Full of promise but ultimately disappointing.The Gourmet was Barbery’s first book before she went on to gain acclaim for The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Maybe this book was simply an amuse bouche before the real thing.
  • (4/5)
    Where I got the book: from The Book Depository.After my tear-soaked, ecstatic reaction to The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I was eager to read Une Gourmandise (I had it in its original French) or Gourmet Rhapsody if you're reading the translation. It's Barbery's first novel (Elegance is the second and last to date, the first to be published) and deals with the same apartment building in Paris. This time it's about the penthouse tenant, the food critic Pierre Arthens, who is dying and searching through his memories for an elusive taste he feels compelled to recall before he dies.As Arthens shuffles through a number of memorable occasions in which food has played an important part, he reveals the essence of himself; his appreciation of the simplicity and honesty of authentic meals and authentic lives, but also his cruelty toward his wife and children who fail to understand who he really is. Without ever having it explicitly laid out, you get the impression that he hates his own success for pulling him ever farther away from what he sees as his real self, and hates the Parisian trappings of success; hence he has nothing but coldness and contempt for those around him, who are all given their own voices as they wait--some eagerly--for him to die.As others have pointed out, the great artist who's a failure as a human being is nothing new. But Barbery's language is luminous, and if this book doesn't have nearly as much punch and pathos as Elegance, it also doesn't have nearly as much of the philosophizing that some readers find hard to stomach (pun intended). I'd give it a 3.5 for being a short, elegant read.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed this book, its descriptions of food and flavors, but I felt that it lacked real characters. Hedgehog had real characters, some likable, others not so much. In Gourmet Rhapsody there are outlines or hints of characters. There are strong expressions of emotion but they didn't seem to connect. I believe that this was Barbery's first novel and in it you can easily see her potential as a novelist.
  • (3/5)
    books to read on your lunch break when you forget to bring actual food
  • (4/5)
    The question that this book seeks to answer is "What is worthy of love?". This is hardly an uncommon theme in literature - in fact, the whole plot has been 'done' before. A tyrant nears the end of his life and seeks to recapture something that he loved in youth. Reflection and self-discovery ensue. Barbery's skillful character creation and use of narrative keeps this book just on the right side of trite, and the whole while it is a joy to read.
  • (2/5)
    As I began listening to this Librarything Early Reviewers audiobook, and feeling doubtful about M. Arthens' likeability, I was hoping Gourmet Rhapsody would turn out to be like The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I had just finished listening to, was for me; a story whose characters at first appeared unlikeable, but went on to win me over. Alas, it was not to be for the more scattered and unfocused Gourmet Rhapsody. Perhaps in book form where one could flip back over pages and reacquaint oneself with the characters this book might have had more success with me, but as an audiobook I found it quite impossible to keep up with the changing characters and was continually lost. The long discourses on food highlighted Barbery's creative talents, and it's quite obvious that she has spent much more time thinking about shrimp and sashimi than the average person, but I found myself continually drifting away. I wanted to like this new Barbery effort, and was excited to listen directly after finishing Hedgehog, but was ultimately disappointed.
  • (3/5)
    I found this book very hard to follow. The descriptions of meals were the only things that kept me going.
  • (3/5)
    Pierre Arthens, "the greatest food critic in the world," is dying, and has but a day or two to retrieve from a scrumptious array of memories the one great flavor that haunts him from his materially successful but emotionally bankrupt life."I am going to die, but that is of no importance. Since yesterday, since Chabrot, only one thing matters. I am going to die and there is a flavor that has been teasing my taste buds and my heart and I simply cannot recall it. I know that this particular flavor is the first and ultimate truth of my entire life, and that it holds the key to a heart that I have since silenced. I know that it is a flavor from childhood or adolescence, an original, marvelous dish that predates my vocation as a critic, before I had any desire or pretension to expound on my pleasure in eating. A forgotten flavor, lodged in my deepest self, and which has surfaced at the twilight of my life as the only truth ever told - or realized. I search, and cannot find."Arthens views his long mis-treated wife as only an object of beauty, a collectible. He views his three children with disdain as offspring are nothing more to him "than the monstrous excrescences of our own selves, pitiful substitutes for our unfulfilled desires." He has shown his mistresses no affection. He treats strangers with disdain. He has shown respect or acceptance only for those few who share his passion and for his cat. The reader moves from one short, precise chapter to another collecting the viewpoints on his life from those close to him including the pets and statuary in his home. In between these observations, the critic revisits the culinary high points of his life in hope of retrieving that one last flavor in which he will find some redemption. And it is these segments that are the best parts of the book - a foodie's delight.Whether the description is of simple toast ..."The moment I bit into the slice of toast, utterly sated for having honored my bountiful plate up to the very last morsel, I was overcome with an inexpressible sense of well-being. Why isit that in France we obstinately refrain from buttering our toast until after it has been toasted? the reason for the two entities should be subjected together to the flickering flame is that in this intimate moment of burning they attain an unequaled complicity. The butter loses its creamy consistency, but nevertheless is not as liquid as when it is melted on its own,in a bain-marie or a saucepan. Likewise, the toast is spared a somewhat dreary dryness, and becomes a moist, warm substance, neither sponge nor bread but something in between, ready to tantalize one's taste buds with its resultant sweetness."or a tomato from a garden ...“Sugar, water, fruit, pulp, liquid or solid? The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure. The resistance of the skin—slightly taut, just enough the luscious yield of the tissues, their seed filled liqueur oozing to the corners of one’s lips, and that one wipes away without any fear of staining one’s fingers, this plump little globe unleashing a flood of nature inside us: a tomato, an adventure.”or the magnificence of sashimi ..."It was dazzling… True sashimi is not so much bitten into as allowed to melt on the tongue. It calls for slow, supple chewing, not to bring about a change in the nature of the food but merely to allow one to savor its airy, satiny texture… sashimi is velvet dust, verging on silk, or a bit of both, and the extraordinary alchemy of its gossamer essence allows it to preserve a milky density unknown even by clouds.”... the result is the same. You will feel hungry. For both the food described and more of the language that captures its essence. This book is small and driven by a character portrait of one deeply flawed man. Although Gourmet Rhapsody was published in France prior to the widely popular The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it has been released in the US after the success of that second novel. And it is a lesser work. Smaller in its scope. If Hedgehog is triple creme and first growth then Gourmet Rhapsody is locally made wine to accompany a provincial feast served in the vineyard much like Arthens' memorable meal in Colleville. Yet aren't both desirable if in different ways? It has disappointed some who craved the complexities of the second novel when they pick up this one first, but it has great charm of its own.
  • (3/5)
    This is a little souffle of a novel, but having read The Elegance of the Hedgehog first, this was disappointment. The writing about food is excellent (if you care about that sort of thing - and I don't), but the food critic is such an awful man - so egotistical and hurtful to his family I began to wish he'd choke on a chicken bone and get it over with....and in the end the long-sought dream food comes from the supermarket! Really!
  • (4/5)
    I know this is my pre-teen, Nancy-Drew-loving self that is saying this, but I will say it anyway: I hope Muriel Barbery writes a book about EVERY SINGLE PERSON at 17 Rue de Grenelle. I loved _The Elegance of the Hedgehog_, and was enchanted to find this new novel by Barbery. This one which concerns Pierre Arthens, who makes one supremely unpleasant visit to the heroine of _Hedgehog_ before dying and leaving his flat vacant. Let me say upfront: He is unpleasant in this one too. But this time we spend a few days in his mind and memory, and it is distressing, but fascinating too.Pierre is a food critic - THE premier food critic of France - and his memories and longings are couched in the same lush, sensuous prose that he has used to describe food in his long career. But as the novel proceeds, the reader comes to see that Pierre's undoubted verbal skills have been used not to reveal the truth, but to hide it; his words create exquisite cages that confine, conceal, and perhaps ultimately smother the simple truth at the core.Hm, pretty fancy words I'm using there. I don't want to be nasty Pierre Arthens, so I will just say: I liked this idea. And I liked the way Barbery never had to state it, because her characters acted it out for her. Skillful. I like that. And the marvelous descriptions of foods both complex and simple were quite mouthwatering.
  • (5/5)
    This is not a long novel, but it is very filling. Maitre, the world's greatest food critic has found out that he is going to die. As he lies in bed, he craves a particular flavor, but can not recall which one. The chapters alternate between his recollections of memories around varies foods: meat, fish, bread, etc, and the thoughts of those around him on the fact that he is dying. Only his cat and wife seem to regret his death. His children and many others, including a homeless man on the street, have a love/hate relationship with Maitre. Their thought are only a couple of pages in between Maitre's memories of experiences with food.my review: This was a beautifully written book. The chapters where Maitre descibes his childhood associations with particular foods, especially his grandmother's cooking are lush and descriptive. The places he visited hold as much meaning for him as the food he savored.I bought The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Barbery the day it was released. But I have yet to read it. Now, after reading this lovely story, I will make an effort to get to it much sooner. I really enjoyed the author's writing.rating 4.5/5
  • (2/5)
    World famous, feared food critic is laying in his bed on dying. Many of the people he has encountered in his life from his children, wife, concierge, bum on the street to his pets are looking back on the nightmare he was, while contemplates his last meal as he withers away. It's obvious he never cared about a single soul, but rather only the subtleties of food. For me the book falls far short of Hedgehog, although well written a bit of a snore. I guess just like as the world thought of the critic. I like Barbery's writing style but felt this story missed the mark.
  • (3/5)
    Disappointing. The main character (and his pathetic life) was utterly uninteresting. The book is so short, one wonders what the point was in writing it? The reader gets snapshots of each of the major players in the Maitre's life, nearly all of whom despise him, not out of jealousy but because he was just an ass of man. There is nothing to draw the reader in, not even a story.
  • (2/5)
    Two stars, for actually managing to inflict literary indigestion. Muriel Barbery herein tries - and fails - to do with the dying reflections of a food critic, what Patrick Suskind achieved so sensuously with Perfume, or Joanne Harris with the ribald sweetness of Chocolat. There were, in The Gourmet, a few, spare moments of enjoyment (particularly the first taste of whisky), but the significant difference is that other authors have managed to provoke the senses of their readers while telling a story worth reading, and there is simply nothing – absolutely nothing – about the characters’ thoughts or reminiscences that engage the reader here. Instead we have pages of pointless wallowing in food and a shared disappointment with the characters that wanted more from Pierre Arthens, because we are left feeling the same way about this book.
  • (3/5)
    An offshoot of Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of The Hedgehog, The Gourmet (as my copy was titled) sees the dying food critic, who occupies the same building as the previous work's main character, struggling to recall one great taste over a lifetime of gastronomic pleasure.I think I liked this better than some of the other reviewers as I didn't think it would be a novel in itself, which it isn't really, but more of a character study. I enjoyed the critic's musings on food, but where I felt the book worked best was in it's subtle revelations of the the types of relationships he had with those in his life, such as his family and mistress as well as with his various pets.I appreciated a further glimpse into Barbery's world of Rue de Grenelle and while this isn't as fulfilling a work as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it was nonetheless a charming concept.
  • (5/5)
    The Gourmet is the first novel by Muriel Barbery. Pierre Arthens, France’s greatest food critic, is dying. As he lies on his deathbed in his Rue de Grenelle apartment, he is tormented by his inability to recall the most delicious food to pass his lips, long before he became a critic. The story is narrated by Arthens himself, as he recalls meals and times in his life in an effort to identify the elusive dish; the people and things in his life also recount their experiences and opinions of him. Barbery’s own childhood in Morocco is in evidence, and the apartment building and the concierge make a further appearance in Barbery’s next and very popular novel, “The Elegance of the Hedghog”. I wondered how the musings of a dying man could make much of a novel, but this is a feast of words, a banquet of mouth-watering and evocative descriptions. Alison Anderson has done a first class job of translation. This is truly a treat to relish.
  • (4/5)
    Not as good as the Elegance of the Hedgehog but I think maybe I need to reread it.
  • (3/5)
    This is a self indulgent story of a man whose whole purpose in life was to eat.
    Now he is dying he is spending the time he has left thinking of all the meals he has eaten and which was the very best.
    Not much in the story to keep my interest, but a light read nevertheless.
    I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review.
  • (4/5)
    While full of delicious descriptions of food and places, the book's subject is the price of living a pretentious false life. A price exacted upon oneself and all those around.
  • (4/5)
    I would say this book didn't have the depth of Elegance but if you love food (as I do) you will enjoy it.Pierre Arthens, a star in the food critic firmament, is dying in his bedroom in the building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog. A horrible human being according to many of those who knew him he nevertheless was acknowledged as a person of exquisite taste and the ability to write like a poet about food. On his deathbed he is seeking one elusive taste from his past. Could it be a daube such as his grandmother used to serve? Perhaps a foreign delicacy like sushi? Maybe a perfect loaf of Arabian bread like he ate as a child while vacationing in Morocco? Or perhaps the dish his uncle cooked one night:He rinsed the jasmine rice in a silvery little colander, drained it, poured it into a saucepan, covered it with one and a half times its volume in salted water, put a lid on the pan, and let it cook. The shrimp waited in an earthenware bowl. While he was chatting with me, mostly about my article and my projects, he was shelling the shrimp with painstaking concentration. Not for one moment did he step up the pace, not for one moment did he slow down. When the last little arabesque had been stripped of its protective shell, he consientiously washed his hands with a soap that smelled of milk. With the same serene uniformity in his gestures, he placed a cast iron frying pan on the stove, poured a trickle of olive oil into it, let it heat, then scatterd the peeled shrimp into the pan. His wooden spatula adroitly circled the shellfish, not allowing a single tiny crescent to escape, scooping them from every side and causing them to dance on the fragrant grill. Then some curry. Neither too much nor too little. A sensual dust tinged the pinky copper of the crustaceans with an exotic gold: the Orient, reinvented. Salt, pepper. With his scissors he snipped a branch of cilantro above the frying pan. Finally, very quickly, a capful of cognac, a match; a long angry flame leapt up from the pan, like a shout or a cry set free at last, a raging sigh fading as quickly as it flared.Yet, none of those are right but he feels he is getting closer. The object of the quest is perhaps not as important as the ramble through his memories.As that paragraph quoted above shows Barbery is still a master of description and the translator, Alison Anderson, is a master of translation. I wished for a little more about his family and friends but, I guess, the purpose of this book was to show the interior workings of the mind and it certainly did that well.The author information says she is now living in Japan and working on another novel. Bring it on!
  • (3/5)
    Pierre Arthes, ein maßloser Gourmet und renommierter Restaurantkritiker, liegt im Sterben. Seine letzten Lebenskräfte verwendet er für die Suche nach dem letzten großen Genuss. Seine Lebensgefährtinnen, seine Freunde, seine Neider und Untergebenen erinnern sich an Begegnungen und Gespräche mit dem Monarchen der Kritik. Er selbst unternimmt eine gedankliche Reise zurück in Küchen, in Kräutergärten und Weinkeller, zu Gerüchen und Geschmäckern - auf der Suche nach der wahren Delikatesse seines Lebens.Muriel Barbery inszeniert in ihrem ersten Roman das vielstimmige Porträt eines Genussmenschen. Fein verwoben erzählt sie die empfindsame Geschichte einer Liebe, die von der Opulenz zurück zur Ursprünglichkeit führt.
  • (3/5)
    “I am going to die and there is a flavor that has been teasing my taste buds and my heart and I simply cannot recall it.”So mourns renowned (and reviled) French food critic Pierre Arthens, who’s on his literal deathbed and desperate for a final taste of a food that he can’t recall except to know that it changed his life. He proceeds into a series of ruminations that take him back through the most important food experiences of his life -- and in the process reveal his arrogance and unlikeability -- each memory alternating with ultra-short, eulogy-like reminiscences by more than a dozen of his relatives, acquaintances, and pet :)The narrative structure brings to mind the numerous points of view in Anita Shreve’s Testimony, although this narrative does not benefit from the forward movement of an underlying story as Shreve's did. Indeed, it took me days to finish this short novella, and I learned to not put it aside when I was in Monsieur Arthens’ point of view because I’d dread picking it up again. Thankfully, the other narrators add a lively, interesting and sympathetic balance. In the end, I’m happy to have persevered and finished, because in the final pages Monsieur Arthens’ food descriptions finally move from intellectual to sensual, which sent me to the Internet to research and compile tasting goals of my own!
  • (4/5)
    This focuses on a French food critic that the author (Muriel Barbery) featured in her other book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I LOVED that book, so had high hopes for this one. I didn't like it as much, but it was still a good read, though a little slow at first. I liked how different chapters were written from the perspectives of different characters - one was even a cat.
  • (3/5)
    Received as a librarything early reviewer audio book (thank you!!!) I usually prefer reading a book to listening to one, though ometimes audio books can be really wonderful, and I did enjoy this. They chose to use several different actors (?) to portray the characters on the CD's, which helped keep characters straight. Good story. Well done.
  • (4/5)
    You'd better love food to read this book. Seriously.Gourmet Rhapsody is very well written and has some intriguing characters, most of which don't get fleshed out as much as I'd like. I have the audio version of this book as an Early Reviewer copy and while the readers are wonderful, it's sometimes difficult to keep track of who's speaking at any given time. But Barbery is a master of character. The characters each have a unique viewpoint and while their sections are sometimes very short, you get a view of their foibles, their hopes and dreams. My particular favorite was Monsieur Arthens' (the main character--a food critic) cat. Neither, it seemed had much of a problem with self-esteem.While a little difficult to get into, I did enjoy the book very much.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this audiobook! Disclosure: I received the audiobook through LibraryThing in exchange for a review. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and find some narrators to be much better than others. I loved that this story was read by several different narrators. Each narrator seemed perfect for the part(s) he or she read. I also love good food, and the way the main character, restaurant critic Monsieur Pierre Arthens, described fish in the section where he reminisced about grilled sardines made my mouth water. "...To say that the flesh is delicate, that its taste is both subtle and expansive, that it stimulates the gums with a mixture of sharpness and sweetness; to say that the combination of the grilled skin's faint bitterness and the extreme smoothness of the firm, strong, harmonious flesh, filling one's mouth with a flavor from elsewhere, elevates the grilled sardine to the rank of culinary apotheosis, is at best like evoking the soporific virtues of opium. For what is at issue here is neither how delicate or sweet or strong or smooth the grilled sardine may be, but its wild nature...." Each food was described brilliantly: meat, fish, vegetables, sushi and other raw foods, bread, dairy, toast, whiskey, ice cream, mayonnaise.Though beautiful descriptions of food are a big part of this book, the characters that surround Pierre are also wonderfully portrayed. There are fifteen distinct characters, including the cold-hearted Pierre, his wife with whom he has a strange/strained relationship, his confused daughter, a loyal housekeeper, a nephew or two, Rick the Cat and others. This is a very short book (four discs/156 pages), but Barbery manages to create well-drawn characters with their monologues. I have not read Barbery's more popular book, "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," in which Monsieur Arthens makes his debut, but I plan to read it soon.
  • (2/5)
    I didn't finish this; I tried listening to it but kept getting distracted and found that it just didn't hold my attention. The book seemed well-suited to the audio format because it has long stretches of 1st person narration by one character at a time but if you can't concentrate on audio content like me it's going to be hard to get anything out of the audio version. I'd be interested to read the paperback but I think I'm just not an audiobook person.