The Porcupine

Overview

In his latest novel, Julian Barnes, author of Talking It Over and A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, trains his laser-bright prose on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Stoyo Petkanov, the deposed Party leader, is placed on trial for crimes that range from corruption to political murder. Petkanov's guilt -- and the righteousness of his opponents -- would seem to be self-evident. But, as brilliantly imagined by Barnes, the trial of this cunning and unrepentant ...

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The Porcupine

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Overview

In his latest novel, Julian Barnes, author of Talking It Over and A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, trains his laser-bright prose on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Stoyo Petkanov, the deposed Party leader, is placed on trial for crimes that range from corruption to political murder. Petkanov's guilt -- and the righteousness of his opponents -- would seem to be self-evident. But, as brilliantly imagined by Barnes, the trial of this cunning and unrepentant dictator illuminates the shadowy frontier between the rusted myths of the Communist past and a capitalist future in which everything is up for grabs.

The author of Talking It Over trains his laser-bright intelligence and phosphorescent prose on the ambiguities raised by the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. "His literary energy and daring are nearly unparalleled among contemporary English novelists."--New Republic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barnes's novels have a mesmeric charm and an air of dangerous simplicity .... [He is] an exceptionally accomplished and ingenious stylist."
-- The New York Review of Books

"Gripping ... Barnes relates this compelling story with his usual narrative brio, sketching his characters with the broad, colorful strokes of a mythic allegory."
-- The New York Times

"Barnes is a dazzling mind in mercurial flight."
-- Philadelphia Inquirer

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Interesting but finally bloodless, this novel finds the deposed Communist president of an Eastern European country put on trial for the crimes he committed during his 33-year iron rule. Oct. Also in October, Vintage International will reissue Barnes's Staring at the Sun . $10 *-74820-2 , which tracks the relentlessly curious Jean Serjeant from her childhood in 1920s England to her flight into the sun in the year 2021. Oct.
Library Journal
The upheavals that have recenty rocked Eastern Europe provide the inspiration for Barnes's ( Flaubert's Parrot , LJ 4/1/85) latest novel, an intelligent, if strangely passionless, examination into the nature of political reality. It focuses primarily on the interaction between two men, former Communist party head Stoyo Petkanov, for 33 years the leader of his nation, and Peter Solinsky, newly appointed chief prosecutor for ``justice.'' Rather than adopt a meek, defensive posture, the recalcitrant party chief thrusts out some barbs of his own, suggesting that the new leadership is no less susceptible to lies and hypocrisy than his own government was. In any given circumstance, Barnes implies, it is simply fate that determines who becomes the accuser and who the accused. Unfortunately, Barnes's success in exploring the mind-set of a Marxist-Leninist hard-liner must be set against the story's overall pallidness. A short, interesting work for those not driven by a need for lots of action or high drama. For larger academic and public collections.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679744825
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage International edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 723,120
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian Barnes
Born in Leicester in 1946, Julian Barnes is the author of nine novels, a book of stories, and a collection of essays. He has won both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina, and in 1988 was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in London.

Biography

Julian Barnes once told London's Observer that he writes fiction "to tell beautiful, exact, and well-constructed lies which enclose hard and shimmering truths." Indeed, this is what Barnes does, sometimes spiking his lies with fact -- most notably in Flaubert's Parrot, the novel that became his breakthrough book. The story of a retired doctor obsessed with the French author, it combines a literary detective story with a character study of its detective, including facts about Flaubert along the way.

Before Flaubert's Parrot propelled him into the company of Ian McEwan and Martin Amis in British authordom, Barnes had been moderately successful with the novels Metroland (which later became the 1997 movie starring Emily Watson and Christian Bale) and Before She Met Me. He was also known to Brits as a newspaper TV critic. Parrot and Barnes's subsequent "Letters from London" in The New Yorker helped expand the author's Stateside following.

"A lot of novelists set up a kind of franchise, and turn out a familiar product," friend and fellow author Jay McInerney told the Guardian in 2000. "But what I like about Jules's work is that he's like an entrepreneur who starts up a new company every time out." Among other ambitious themes, Barnes has explored the collapse of communism (The Porcupine) the Disneyfication of culture (England, England), the simple dynamics of relationships (Talking It Over and its sequel, Love, Etc.), and the connections between art, religion, and death (The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters).

Barnes has also produced collections of essays, a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, and a family memoir (Nothing to Be Frightened Of) that also serves as a meditation on mortality.

Good To Know

In 2000, a cybersquatting professor acquired the Internet rights to julianbarnes.com and several other authors' domain names; Barnes later won his name back, and the domain is now an informational site run by a fan with Barnes's permission. Barnes had protested the professor's actions, accusing him of usurpation; but his opponent might have responded by quoting from Barnes's own (albeit satirical) England, England: "Indeed, wasn't there something old-fashioned about the whole concept of ownership, or rather its acquisition by formal contract, in which title is received in exchange for consideration given?.... It would have been unfair to call Sir Jack Pitman a barbarian, though some did; but there stirred within him a longing to revisit pre-classical, pre-bureaucratic methods of acquiring ownership. Methods such as theft, conquest and pillage, for example."

Barnes wrote four mystery novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, all of which are now out of print; the novels starred Duffy, a bisexual ex–police officer. Kavanagh's bio read in part: "Having devoted his adolescence to truancy, venery and petty theft, he left home at seventeen and signed on as a deckhand on a Liberian tanker." Kavanagh also happens to be the last name of Barnes's agent and wife, Pat.

Barnes was a deputy literary editor under Martin Amis at the New Statesman from 1980–82 and was also a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary. Amis and Barnes later had a falling-out that became fodder for the press when Amis wrote about it in his memoir, Experience; Barnes is mum on the subject, but the disagreement arose when Amis defected from Barnes's wife to another agent.

Barnes has a cameo in the film Bridget Jones's Diary as himself, but in a lesser role than he has in Helen Fielding's book. In the book, Bridget is flummoxed upon encountering Barnes and embarrasses herself; but the more recognizable Salman Rushdie was substituted for Barnes in the film version.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Dan Kavanagh
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 19, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Leicester, England
    1. Education:
      Degree in modern languages from Magdalen College, Oxford, 1968

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