Her name is Renee and she works at a swanky apartment building in the 6th arrondissement. She is the protagonist in the French novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog of Muriel Barbery, which was published in 2006 and immediately became a bestseller.
In the book, Renee does her utmost to comply with the stereotypical image of a Parisian concierge. She is old, ugly and surly, she seems to watch television endlessly and she eats cheap meals. An intelligent human being hides behind this façade though. This woman reads philosophical books in the back room of her porter’s house, is fond of Russian literature, music, film, art and eats delicious snacks. In the novel, she is able to hide this secret from everyone for a long time.
In the Paris of today, the number of concierges is reduced greatly due to the emergence of the door code. At the same time, however, homeowners seem to reconsider this development.
After all, the concierge is the person who ensures safety and exerts a certain degree of social control. He or she is of service at all times: he/she accepts packages and messages, distributes mail, keeps the entrance and courtyard clean, takes care of plants and flowers, polishes copper and takes out the trash. In short, this authentic French phenomenon will not acknowledge defeat easily.
By the way, the novel makes you curious about Rue de Grenelle 7. And yes, you can actually find house number 7 in the heart of Saint-Germain at the façade of a Prada store, but without door or entrance.