While on vacation last month I finally got around to reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. An enjoyable passage that I feel P&C readers will relate to occurs on page 152 of the paperback version. In it, clandestine philosophizer and Paris resident Renée Michel, one of the two main characters, contemplates the effect that she feels sliding doors have on Japanese interiors:
“…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 depressïon, 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 another 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.”
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