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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,976 ratings  ·  382 reviews
Barabbas is the acquitted; the man whose life was exchanged for that of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified upon the hill of Golgotha. Barabbas is a man condemned to have no god. "Christos Iesus" is carved on the disk suspended from his neck, but he cannot affirm his faith. He cannot pray. He can only say, "I want to believe."

Translated from Swedish by Alan Blair.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 20th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1950)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who question
Was there any meaning in the life he lived? Not even that did he believe in. But this was something he knew nothing about. It was not for him to judge.

Despite the small size of this novel, it is a deep chasm of heavy thoughts and difficult questions. Barabbas, widely considered the masterpiece of the Swedish author and 1951 Nobel laureate Par Lagerkvist, is a parable of the dilemma of faith. Barabbas, acquitted for murder, goes on living while Jesus is crucified in his stead, and spends his li

It amuses me, sometimes, the way people judge books. They'll ban them for epithets, they'll ban them for sex, they'll ban them for witchcraft. More often than not, they'll ban them for raising uncomfortable questions in the minds of children who have not yet been conditioned to follow the proper path. Ignore, and if you cannot ignore, condemn until you can, and if you cannot condemn until you can. Eradicate.

You could ban this book for any of those reasons, much as you could ban the Bible.
My kids love churches, but not having been brought up religiously, they don't understand any of the iconography. Trying to explain to a six-year-old why they all have statues of this beardy guy slowly dying on a stick has really brought home to me what a hideous and morbid idea Christianity is built on. I understand that some people find it very touching and beautiful, but I find it difficult to see it that way. Telling people that this man went through agony, and then died, on your behalf, whet ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel, list-1001, asia
Barabbas is the guy who was acquitted in Christ's place - and, so, the only person Christ literally died for. And so, perhaps he might invite a parable for the whole Christian world? Personally, I can't see this book as a parable though. Personally, I think the story is called Barabbas because author talking about humanity in general needs a person around whom story could pivot (the word always reminds me of Ross) around and Barabbas happened to be a good choice. Since he is living because Jesus ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Megha by: The Master & Margarita
Shelves: reviews

"I have no god", Barabbas answered at last...
"Why then do you bear this "Christos Iesus" carved on your disk?"
"Because I want to believe", Barabbas said..."
He wanted to believe. But he did not understand.

"Love one another" - that's what they said the message of the crucified man was. Love one another - now what could that mean to Barabbas's simple mind? What could love mean to Barabbas who had been hated even by his mother from the moment he drew his first breath? Who had never felt any emot
The story of Barabbas being unbeliever although he has witnessed the crucifixion eclipse that darkness that accompanied the crucifixion and was supposed to be a miracle and also t he resurrection of Jesus after he had been crucified and buried and his visit to , a man who lived through the resurrection process. All this doesnt prevent him from being a skeptic who cant believe that God could be crucified , and has his own doubts through his journey searching for answers……and peace for his soul an ...more
Eddie Watkins
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: swedish-fiction
Barabbas is a poor wretch. You have to feel sorry for him, for through no will or desire or intention of his own he finds himself in the center of one of the most momentous events in human history - his life is spared and Jesus is crucified - but this "resurrection" of Barabbas only makes his life more difficult as he's unprepared to process all the metaphysical implications of the event. He's actually constitutionally incapable of understanding metaphysics; all he understands is life and the fa ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Anyone familiar with the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion would know who Barabbas was. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, "finding no case against (him)" (John 18:38). So facing the crowd, he invoked a Jewish custom during Passover permitting the release of a prisoner on death row. The people however clamored for the release of Barabbas, a murderer and an insurrectionist, and called for Jesus' crucifixion. Pilate argued for Jesus three times (Luke 23:21-22) but the people were insistent. Their s ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A short tale involving Barabbas, the thief who was pardoned so that Jesus could be crucified. It follows him through his life after the pardon, as he witnesses at first hand the rise of the cult of Jesus as it develops from an obscure Jewish sect into a faith that will threaten and eventually subvert the mighty Roman empire.

Whilst not a believer, time and time again Barabbas is drawn to the persecuted group, fascinated as to why a man's life and death could evoke such devotion and sacrifice. In
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brian by: s. penkevich
Like a lost gnostic gospel (The Gospel of Christ according to Barabbas?), this novel strums the chords of belief, regret, yearning and loss. Using the death and resurrection of Christ as the backdrop for the released prisoner Barabbas's story is clever and there are many unique and ineresting fictions created by Lagerkvist to tell his hero's tale.

It might have been the translation, but Lagerkvist's writing style didn't resonate with me at all. I'm not ready to give up on him; I'll try a couple o
Czarny Pies
Barabbas is an addition to the new testament written by an atheist. It is far more likely to please those who have fallen away from the faith than someone who is a believer.

The person of Barabbas is a very familiar figure to anyone with a Christian upbringing. The story of Christ's passion is read every year on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday. Thus you hear the story twice a year how Pilate tells the crowd that they have the right to obtain the pardon of one condemned man every year and suggests
Lagerkvist, Lagerkvist, how no one reads you anymore... which is totally sad because you're a brilliant Lutheran-damaged existentialist. Or as I described it to my friend recently, Camus and Hamsun doing a London bridge on Kierkegaard. Barabbas, much like his masterful "The Sibyl," is based on a Bible story, so, despite its slenderness, still contains and handles epic themes. A wonderful meditation on guilt, faith, and the mysterious forces of the world.
Jon Nakapalau
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Barabbas sees the death of Jesus but lets others convince him that what he saw was not real. When he comes to realize that the story is true he finds himself in the same position as Jesus...but this time he is ready to accept the truth.
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
With Barabbas, my reading of the in-print English editions of Lagerkvist's works is—sadly—complete. I started with The Dwarf, continued with the stories in The Marriage Feast, and recently read The Sibyl. Lagerkvist's writing is always intriguing, even if there is some variation in its quality (The Sibyl, for instance, wasn't nearly as good as the others, especially not as good as some of the best stories in The Marriage Feast). Barabbas, the story of the man who was sentenced to death but for w ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Simplicity can be a great advantage in telling a story. Many great writers have used very spartan ways, and still left an impression far from one-dimensional. Doing this is tricky. It includes using little to tell a lot, there has to be something lurking underneath, a richness for the reader to decipher. Here starts the trouble I have with Barabbas. It is not only written sparingly, but doesn't really seem to hold more than the bare words that are strung together.

When picking this book from the
Interesting novel. Lagerkvist has creatively handled the known story of the Christian Passion and focussed on the perspective of Barabbas, the criminal that was released in exchange for Christ. He is presented as as troubled and a seeking man, that really wanted but could not believe in Jesus. Fortunately, the traditional Scandinavian moralising tone is absent here. Nicely written out, with sometimes beautiful passages, and even in many ways an evocation of life in the margin and the centre of t ...more
Barabbas, the only man for whom Jesus literally died.

Barabbas, described in the gospels as an insurrectionist and murderer, was brought before a crowd of angry Jews and was chosen to be set free; Jesus was chosen to be crucified on a tree. So begins a novel of antitheses. Barabbas watches Jesus on the cross in wonder; a mysterious light is emitted from the crucified man; darkness seems to be chained to the ransomed murderer.

This is a powerful novel about faith (or lack thereof), guilt, and free
John Bellinger
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent - simple, but well crafted. Understated, but the emotions of Barrabas ring true. Simple narrative structure filled with a sort of bare-bones sense of being lost and sad and out of place. A book about loneliness. Made me think of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - that pervasiveness of quiet despair.
Harman Hameed
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am reading the Kurdish translation and it's all messed up due to misuse of pronouns, the story is a bit awkwardly told and explores how a normal sane observer would've seen the events unfold at the time of Christ, I don't regret reading it, but i don't recommend it unless you're invested in the subject matter.

thinking back to it, it's a sad melody sort of song, you know it's sad, and you know it's futile, but you still don't mind listening to it coz you yourself can find "you" in the protagoni
Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody
Shelves: novels, lagerkvist
This is the best book about faith or the lack of it I've ever read. The volume pictured has the translation I read.
Barabbas is a New Testament figure. In scripture, the crowd about to witness the crucifixion of Jesus is asked which prisoner should be set free. Instead of Jesus, the crowd chooses Barabbas, whose crime is vague (he may have been a thief, a murderer, an agitator or something else) and Barabbas spends the rest of the novel unable to believe in Christ and yet unable to continue in a
Matthew Crowley
Apr 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
At this point in his career, Lagerkvist has unlimited control over his language. The narrative reads like a poem, and reads very easily; no pressure is put on readers in their task, no exertion is wasted. There is no attempt by the author to be clever or forcibly meaningful. All there is to know and see is naked before you, nothing is hiding. What meaning there is comes in steady waves, smoothly, naturally, almost unnoticed. 'Barabbas' must be re-read, but this should be a pleasurable, effortles ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Bible’s ability to inspire fan-fiction (from Paradise Lost to the present day) is definitely underrated.
Review #14 of "Year of the Review All Read Books"

Jesus was the Original Most Interesting Man in the World. And when on that Easter morning he rose and appeared to the apostles with Dos XX in hand everyone got right quick to work writing their outlandish sounding tales and anecdotes about him.

And the stories continue to come out some 2000 years later. But as we get farther and farther away from that scion of perfect humanity we wonder more and creep closer to his acquaintences. Colm Toibin's T
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist tells us the story of Barabas, a man who was acquitted instead of Jesus of Nazateth. We are all familiar with or rather a majority of us are familiar with the story. Personally, I was not very much aware of his personality and life. The bible does not detail how he lived or where he went after being pardoned. Consequently, I am left wondering how much truth is contained in the book.

What impressed me so much about this story is the portrayal of human emotions. It is cle
Michael Scott
[I have waited for more than two years to read this book.:]
Barabbas is a book starting from the premise that a life blighted by a capital sin is a life to be lead in anguish and lack of fulfillment, towards an unhappy death. The main character, Barabbas, is the epitome of the sinner: a thief and a low-life, unable to understand, unable to redeem itself. The premise and the choice of plot are good and interesting, but the text is fatally injured. The main plot and character(s) are difficult to be
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
A beautiful parable about a man's constant attempt to find faith in spite of being caught in an ocean of doubts. Lagervkist, much like Platanov, uses defamiliarization to create a world that is not quite mystical, but not quite mundane either. The whole story has this air of solemn profundity about it which occure so rarely in fictions that deal with the problems of faith and doubt. This was my first foray into Scandinavian fiction, and I'm glad I choose this work.
Adam Floridia
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books
What a deceptively deep short book. It is steeped in layers of symbolism and irony, and Barabbas as foil to Christ is moving, insightful, and thought-provoking.

I wish I had read this as an assignment in college and been required to write an essay on it. That is what I would have to do in order to demonstrate some of the above, but I just don't feel up to doing it right now.

Book: A+
My review of book: F
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
If the hell was the 'other' people (Sartre), so this book can be used for remembering who have forgotten. Why is this act so important? The history has always been written through only one perspective, by 'the winners' - Jesus, Kings/Queens, Western democratic principles and so on. So what about "Les Damnés de la Terre" (Fanon)? Let's salute all novels with anti-heroic protagonists and resist to deliberate exclusions of 'others' not even in literature, in life as well...
Dhanaraj Rajan
It is a terrific read specially if you are a christian. It can shake you.
John Hatley
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful novel about the man called Barabbas who was released from prison so that Jesus could be crucified.
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Reading 1001: Barabbas - Lagerkvist 2 8 Mar 28, 2020 10:06AM  
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Lagerkvist was born in 1891 in southern Sweden. In 1910 he went to Uppsala as a student and in 1913 he left for Paris, where he was exposed to the work of Pablo Picasso. He studied Middle Age Art, as well as Indian and Chinese literature, to prepare himself for becoming a poet. His first collection of poetry was published in 1916. In 1940 Lagerkvist was chosen as one of the "aderton" (the eighteen ...more

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“-No, the man said, looking past him with his empty gaze, the realm of the dead isn't anything. But to those who have been there, nothing else is anything either.” 12 likes
“وحدها كانت غبية بما يكفي لجعلها تتعلق بهذا الشخص التعيس ، كانت تبكي مع نفسها في الليل ، أما الآن ، فلم تعد تشعر بأن بكاءها فعل حسن .. لم تفكر البتة بمعاودة ما فعلته .” 6 likes
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