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The Porcupine

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  735 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Stoyo Petkanov, the deposed Party leader of a former Soviet satellite country, is on trial. His adversary stands for the new ideals, the leader for the old - or so one would think. But Petkanov is different. He has been given his day in court and he takes it with a vengeance, to the increasing discomfort and surprise of those around him.
Published March 18th 2005 by Picador (first published January 1st 1992)
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Nov 01, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Could a nation lose its capacity for scepticism for useful doubt? What if the muscle of contradiction simply atrophied from lack of exercise?'

This is a very short novel, it took me about two hours or so pootling along the Shropshire Union Canal during the break between lifting bridges and one or two locks on holiday last month. In fact, it was quite surreal. Reading a novel about the trial of an imaginary Party leader of a former Soviet satellite country, a country riven with hatred, mistrust a
Katie Lumsden
May 01, 2016 Katie Lumsden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favourite Julian Barnes so far. This is a well-paced and engagingly written novella, a really interesting examination of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the fall of communism.
Oct 20, 2014 Sanja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ima tih knjiga koje su dosadne ali su dobro napisane, pa ih ne možeš odbaciti. E, pa, Bodljikavo prase nije dosadno (ok, jeste na momente) ali sama tema (post socijalističko društvo i suđenje bivšem predsedniku) mi nije naročito privlačna. Međutim, Barns je užasno dobar pisac. I Paunović je isto toliko dobar prevodilac. Lepe rečenice, proste i složene u isto vreme, predivan stil. Plus, svaki put kad čitam Barnsa imam osećaj da nema oblasti koju taj čovek ne poznaje. On sve zna, ne pametuje.

Sve u
Aug 05, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I liked about this book was the complexity of its characters. It tells the story of a former Communist dictator being put on trial by the new democratic government. In another author's hands, it could have been unbearable. The Cold War is often viewed in simplistic terms: we won, they lost, democracy=good, communism=evil. It would have been easy to make the characters into cardboard cutouts, the dictator into some kind of James Bond villain.

The reality, of course, is that nobody thinks of h
This book is definitely not for everyone, and I don't mean that in the sense that it's too smart for you. It's more like, you might find it boring. There are times when it is really boring, and I wouldn't blame you if you gave up. This is not Barnes at his best, in my opinion. I, however, had to read it for class, and then write a paper on it, so... No quitting here.

As a comparison, I enjoyed England England more than this one, but this is still perhaps slightly more interesting than Flaubert's
Kris McCracken
Apr 25, 2012 Kris McCracken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Porcupine is a novel by Englishman Julian Barnes that was originally published in Bulgarian [ Бодливо свинче]. This should give us a very strong clue as to the identity of which post-communist country the story takes place.

The novel concerns the trial of the former communist leader of Bulgaria, and its effects on both the central protagonists of that trial, as well as the broader community. The real strength of the book is the complexity of its characters. There is no clear ‘black and white’
Tom James
For me, I did enjoy the book in some parts, but for the most of it, I felt like I was reading a non-fiction book only the names had been changed.

I appreciate the amount of research Julian Barnes must have done for this book, but for me, it could have been longer and more spread out. My main problem with the book is that at first it starts off well, but as it gets nearer to the end, it all seems a little rushed, and 2/3 pages of Petkanov just listing his honours is too much.

There were instances i
Sep 13, 2008 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barnes sets this novel in an anonymous post-communist country about a year after the overthrow of the Party, just as the nation must make the decision of what to do with the man who served as Party Chairman (dictator) for over 30 years. The protagonists are the prosecutor of the case and the dictator himself. I thought that the characters were the best part of this short novel, the dictator is especially entertaining. While this was definitely an enjoyable read, I found the plot to be sometimes ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book. It's funny and offers a remarkably insightful take on the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc for a work published in 1992. The characters are nicely drawn and the political observations made in the novel are witty and sharp.

Having read FLAUBERT'S PARROT by Barnes previously, I hoped to be charmed and fully engaged by this book as well. THE PORCUPINE is not without its charms, but it is ultimately as brief in its scope (in terms of narrative and style) as it is in size.

A slight
Mar 02, 2014 Charlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An appropriate book to be reading during the current crisis in the Ukraine. Excellent.
Mark Speed
Dec 04, 2014 Mark Speed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm someone who doesn't see the world as simple black and white. There are shades of good and evil, and you can play all the what-if scenarios you like with history but you'll never know what course a country would take under a different leadership style.

This novel was written after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the domino effect of regime collapse across the Communist Bloc. It looked great back then, but now we can see the consequences. Judge each in his own time, as the saying goes. Each of
Mar 24, 2009 Simon rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Short, sharp, biting, strong characterisation, astute political observation, telling details. As in all good satire, everyone gets it in the neck, not just the obvious "bad guy". Which makes it all the more puzzling that another reviewer disliked the "moral ambiguity" - surely that's the whole point of a book like this?
Feb 17, 2015 Kristīne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
politiskais Bārns nav ne ar ko sliktāks par lirisko Bārnsu.
Mariejeanne Van steen
Het Stekelvarken" - Julian Barnes. Vertaling van het Engelse boek :"The Porcupine"
Geen gemakkelijk verhaal. Twee hoofdpersonen komen tegenover elkaar te staan. Stojo Petkanov,
leider van voormalig Sovjetstaat, tegenover Procureur Generaal , nl Peter Solinski, vroeger partijlid.
De oude leider houdt halsstarrig vast aan zijn politieke overtuiging.
Twee karakters komen tegenover elkaar te staan.
Het volk mort,werkloosheid en inflatie worden gebruikt als politiek wapen. Standbeelden,
van het oude regi
May 10, 2014 Girish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unconventional book by Julian Barnes that has handled the 'victory' of capitalism over socialism and communism from the other side. Not a light read, but the book true to it's name might sting at the fundamentals of the ideologies.

The last dictator of a communist country is up for trial in the face of democracy. And he decides to make his stand, not to fight but to hold on to his beliefs. Barnes gives such depth to the character that the reader starts to appreciate the biases of the characte
Apr 07, 2015 Abhishek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read The Porcupine by Julian Barnes with some trepidation. Usually, we have a certain imagery of the way a book written by a Man-Booker prize winner (won for The Sense of an Ending) would be – it would be thick, it would be laced with gazillion of words that are difficult to enunciate and of course understand, it would be slow in its narrative, it may not even reach any sort of conclusion. I was pleasantly surprised when I got hold of The Porcupine. To begin with, it is a short novel, ...more
Stephen Curran
Nov 26, 2014 Stephen Curran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andreea Pausan
Aug 10, 2014 Andreea Pausan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hahahaha. This is the best satire of communism I have ever read. When the regime changes to democracy, people arrest S. Petkanov and submit him to a trial. But the trial is not what it seems to be, for the very simple reason there is no actual proof to convict the tyrant. The prosecutor, his wife, people watching on TV, all are as real as it gets under our eyes, painting a vivid picture of transition from communism to the market democracy, with all the sordid details: confusion, panic, loss of i ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“ ‘Socialism is not built without sacrifice. Your father understood that once. Before he started waving his conscience around like it was his prick.’
“ ‘You should have stopped that sentence earlier’” (15).
“…he had sent back his party card with an openly provocative letter which a few years earlier would have brought men in leather coats to the door at an unsocial hour” (36).
“Surely God was the only person capable of presiding over a moral trial. Terrestrials were better off concerning themselves
Dec 05, 2008 thom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Having loved A History Of The World In 10 1 2 Chapters and Arthur And George, I'd been a little disappointed with the last couple of Julian Barnes books that I'd read. Staring At The Sun started well, but went very strange for no apparent reason towards the end. Before She Met Me on the other hand, was rather dull and strange, but had a rather striking ending.

The Porcupine, however, is a novella that stands very firmly amongst Barnes' best work. Tightly, but simply plotted, and full of outstandi
Apr 21, 2011 Bev rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In The Porcupine written by Julian Barnes in 1992, the author of Talking it Over and The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters focuses his laser-like prose on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and parts of Russia. The story is a familiar one--the Communist Party has been toppled in a former Soviet satellite country and Stoyo Petkanov, former Party President, is on trial for crimes that range from corruption to political murder. His opponent is the newly appointed Prosecutor General, ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Althea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I preferred this book to “Sense of an Ending”. I thought “Sense of and Ending” was brilliantly written, but felt there was an element of cruelty in the story. I didn’t like any of the characters and doubted whether they had learned anything about themselves and their skewed values.
“The Porcupine” is the story of the deposed leader of a former Soviet satellite country, who has been put on trial. You find yourself liking the wily old fox, who almost convinces you that he did nothing wrong. He clai
Sep 13, 2015 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Porcupine covers the trial of a dictator of a country, imagined as Bulgaria, by the new government. At first I was interested, sat in a bar in the very same country, and intrigued by the political nature of the book. However, it soon became so dense with facts that will make little sense to many that I grew bored and frustrated. It's a short book and, in some ways, that redeems it, but the divide between non-fiction and fiction became too small as I was reading. It's not Julian Barnes at his ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-again
Loved Sense of an Ending but just really couldn't get into this book, although I found it somewhat humorous at times. I think that you either have to actually care about the subject matter much more than I do, or have read it when it was more politically relevant in the 1990s.

Thankfully, it was a short book.
I wanted the book to be more interesting than it ended up being. I think the author wanted to demonstrate some of the absurdity and political vitriol that occurs within a post-Communist state.

The author's prose writing is significantly more interesting than his dialogue.
Ricardo Santos
Jun 21, 2015 Ricardo Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falar sobre o fim de uma ditadura, crimes de guerra, ressentimentos coletivos e pessoais e ainda rir de tudo isso. Leviano? Não se o autor a contar esta história tem o talento de Julian Barnes.
Kim Hakkenberg
Mar 10, 2014 Kim Hakkenberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing little book about the fall of one of the communist dictators in eastern Europe.... you get to guess which one!
Jul 25, 2014 Louise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some parts good, some not so, some dull point, the students commentary was probably highlight for me.
Peter Hakkenberg
Mar 16, 2014 Peter Hakkenberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting story... a parable of how the bullied can become bullies. Based on post-communist trial of the former head of state. Thought provoking.
Jan 21, 2016 Dee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barnes writes great political satire. This guy is a genius. read everything he writes!
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School
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“Heroes become traitors, traitors become martyrs.” 0 likes
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