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The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel
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The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  42 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A story of love and adventure in an imaginary Slavic nation on the brink of historic change—the debut of a ribald and raucous new literary voice

Set in the quaint (though admittedly backward) fictional nation of Scalvusia in 1939, The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel follows the exploits of a young swineherd with romantic delusions of grandeur. Desperate to attract the voluptuou...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Douglas Lord
For a zesty, magnificently rich literary experience, try Polish writer Zyzak who deftly litters every page of this debut novel with adventurous, dense writing and who wields language as artfully as Vladimir Nabokov or Chuck Palahniuk. The title character, latest in a long line of pig herders, lives in the tiny Odolechka, Scalvusia, an Eastern European backwater village (ten times worse than Moldova) in 1939. There he’s part of a passionate, savage local scene that includes a priest who pins his...more
This is an Eary Reviewer edition I got from It is the author's debut novel and I am stunned that this is a first. This satire/allegory/theater of the absurd story is reminiscent of "Waiting For Godot". I laughed, chuckled and almost wept over the plight of this cast of characters and their slapstick absurdity. At the same time, it is a tragic tale of ignorance and blind acceptance of fear based rhetoric. The kind of twisted logic that cost six million people their lives during...more
Mishel Zabala
Apr 01, 2014 Mishel Zabala marked it as dnf
Shelves: for-review, arc
Ugh!!!! this is my first DNF. I've given it a lot of thought because I hate to give up on a book and I haven't..until now. I don't think, even with time, I'll be able to get through this one. I thought the eccentric and unique style would eventually grab me, because the synopsis certainly did. But I just kept waiting and waiting for something to grab my interest and all I really wanted to do close the book and start something else. *sigh*

I don't know if it was the writing style, the characters,...more
The stupidest book I ever ( started to) read.
How does this crap get published?
Jeremy DeBottis
Ever see a movie, or hear an album, or read a book and know it's good, but not really enjoy it? That's kind of my feeling about this book. The characters are fun and interesting, the narrator is entertaining, and the ending avoids being stereotypical. Generally these are all things that make me love a book, but for some reason I struggled with this one, and found it hard to pay attention. It's not a particularly difficulty read so it's worth a shot, and chances are most people will like it more...more
Tom Donaghey
I’m a bit lost as to what to make of this novel. It was well written, the main characters had a great deal of appeal, and the story, such as it is, is fun enough to be worth reading. But in the end I felt as if I hadn’t gotten the point of the exercise.
The author is Polish by birth and now lives in America and I’m not certain if those two facts are germane to the review of this book. One’s history does inform what one can write about and how they go about the writing, so from that point of vie...more
I wanted to love this. The absurdity of the prologue and opening chapters is different than what I am normally attracted to, but it made me laugh out loud. But it never settled in. The gimmick -- the travails of a backward pigherder -- overwhelmed the story. The eventual resolution is funny, if expected, but there are a solid 150 pages of overwrought details that make this a slog to get through.
Within a few paragraphs, I had a sense that this was not going to be my cup of tea. I gave it five chapters. I give up. It's just too absurd and ridiculous for my taste. I think this first time writer tried much too hard to find a style that's different or unique and, in my view, failed miserably at doing so.
I suspect this is in the same vein as the absurdist fiction of Soviet-era Eastern Europe, but it feels somewhat ridiculous by now.
Anna Shabalov
I won this book from a GoodReads Giveaway contest.
Basically, I thought this book was just ok and for me that was a big letdown. The premise sounded awesome, Eastern Europe and alternate history are my jam, and then the book jacket had praise from Gary Shteyngart and I got really excited. And all that never really panned out. I didn't find the book to be very funny, I wasn't particularly taken with the use of language, the plot dragged, the generalized Eastern European setting didn't add much to...more
Sarima Tamashiq
I laughed so hard while reading this book I fell off my chair
Funny story with lots of Dave Barry-like humor. Absurdity and silliness abound.
Jennifer Ochoa
I received an ARC from Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my review. I wanted to give this a higher rating because its very well-written, but I found my mind wandering toward the latter half. It's a funny satirical tale with comically ridiculous characters engaging in silly antics. Humor is hard to successfully pull off, but the writer is obviously very clever in creating her characters and dialogue. I found myself chuckling aloud a few times and smiling quite a bit. The storyline just lacked p...more
Brigi Rafini
Hilarious. Plain hilarious.
The story of pig farmer Barnabas and his quest for love unfolds as the fictional eastern European nation called Scalvusia is overtaken by the Germans. I thought it was very good satire from this first-time novelist - some passages had me laughing out loud - and I look forward to reading more from her.
3.5/5 A wonderful debut novel that uses humor to teach us about a different side of history
Brittany jeniva Davenport
this was quite an interesting book! very funny and would definetly recommend to friends and family
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