In the heart of Paris, in the posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the greatest food critic in the world is dying. Revered by some and reviled by many, Monsieur Pierre 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 protégé, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about Monsieur 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.
Muriel Barbery’s novels include the New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa, 2008), and Gourmet Rhapsody (Europa, 2009). She is also the author of The Writer’s Cats, illustrated by Maria Guitart, a short tale about esthetics, inspiration, the writing life, and cats. Barbery has lived in Kyōto, Amsterdam, and Paris, and now lives in the French countryside.