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The Porcupine

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  934 Ratings  ·  80 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 1992)
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Nov 01, 2013 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
Aug 05, 2010 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
Katie Lumsden
May 01, 2016 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.
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I have read around four of Barnes’ books to date, and simply cannot make my mind up as to whether I enjoy him as an author. Some of his works have definitely been better than others, although I must admit that my favourite so far has been The Sense of an Ending, which I only gave a three-star rating. I borrowed The Porcupine from the library because it looked interesting and was relatively short. I must admit that I wasn’t overly sold on it.

I liked the idea of a crumbling Soviet state described
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-bezit, proza
Julian Barnes beschrijft het (moeizame) proces van een afgezette partijleider in een Oost-Europese staat. De wrange relatie tussen de partijleider en de openbaar aanklager, die het spel volgens de regels wil spelen maar bijna niet op kan tegen de leugens en de zelfverzekerdheid van de partijleider.
Iets heel anders dan wat ik tot nu toe gelezen heb van Barnes maar zeker niet minder interessant.
Florin Pitea
An ironic reversal of Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon". Worth reading and keeping.
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
Oct 07, 2014 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
It is well written, but it's not as interesting as the other works of Julian Barnes. But it's certainly much better than "Before she met me". And the topic is different. What I do like is how Barnes never takes a side. We see the pros and cons of communism/socialism as well as democracy.
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: litfic
Зацікавлення Барнза ділами нашими східноєвропейськими і скорбними, що докотилося до українського читача перекладом "Шуму часу", насправді сягає на 20 років у минуле, коли він написав "Їжака" (в сенсі, похідне від "єжових рукавиць"). Початок 1990-х у пострадянській країні, безнадійна зима й епоха, пам'ятники тягають туди-сюди, бульвари обрамляють голі дерева й стовпи (дерева чекають весни, щоб обрости листям, стовпи - політичної стабільності, коли до них приколотять нові назви вулиць). У столиці ...more
Sergiu Pop
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it in one sitting. It was a good book, especially if you come from an ex-communist country.
Really says some things about human nature.
Kris McCracken
Feb 29, 2012 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 07, 2008 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
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Two and a half stars.

Because it makes you feel there ought to be more books that give us a peek beyond the iron curtain.

Because a book as short as The Porcupine isn't enough to inform and educate us about Communism.

And more so because we millenials have not known anything but capitalism to actually appreciate it (or alternately come to realize the benefits of the former, if there are any)

Wish the book fulfilled all of the above than merely make you wish for it.
Mar 24, 2009 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?
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An appropriate book to be reading during the current crisis in the Ukraine. Excellent.
Kim Hakkenberg
Mar 09, 2014 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!
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
politiskais Bārns nav ne ar ko sliktāks par lirisko Bārnsu.
May 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read quite a number of Julian Barnes books and I got quite mixed feeling. I think I could summarise it as - a very good writer of rather average books.
What do I mean? A wide knowledge, exciting language, great wit and something missing to create convincing characters and a good plot.
The Porcupine is one of his early books and quite different from later written books which I read.
This time I do not blame author for writing a lacklustre books, the topic - bringing communist dictators to justice
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The trial of an Eastern Bloc president as imagined by an English literary grande. Very entertaining though likely for personal reasons.

The novel (possibly a novella?) is about Todor Zhivkov, leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party between 1954 and 1989. In 1989, he was ousted, and in 1990 he was put on trial for embezzlement. The novel covers his time in detention and the actual trial. He is pitted against a (fictional) prosecutor. Form-wise, I thought it was a bit like a reverse Darkness at Noo
Magdalena Revlis
Cartea de față este unul dintre cele mai bune exemple, pentru mine cel puțin, de a înțelege ideologia socialismului. Deși romanul lui Barnes se încadrează la ficțiune, povestea fiind plasată într-o țară fictivă, ideea de la care s-a pornit a fost una genială.
Procesul de condamnare a unui fost conducător comunist, după căderea regimului. Narațiunea merge pe două planuri întrepătrunse, condimentate cu anumite comentarii făcute de un grup de tineri ce urmăresc cu interes ”Procesul Penal Numărul 1”.
Tim Armstrong
Read this in two sittings, it isn't long, a novella.
And although there were passages of brilliance, that reminded you what a great writer Barnes is, the novel just didn't hit home for me like "The Sense of an Ending" did.
Very different books - sure, but I felt unfulfilled. Maybe this one hit home too much. Barnes here painfully shows the fundamental flaws of political systems or ideologies. It seemed like it could or did happen. There is a lot more subtext here than just the central story, and
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. A novella about the trial of Stoyo Petkanov, a deposed Eastern European Leader, set in 1990. The prosecutor, Solinsky, a young ambitious married man, sets about to prove the guilt of the Petkanov. The story explores Petkanov's justification for his actions. In conducting Petkanov's interrogation, Solinsky performance is seen as self-serving as the previous Communist trials. The shortest of the book means that characters are not fully fleshed out. It is an interesting, quick read.
Adrian Găinaru
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Porcul spinos, scriitorul britanic Julian Barnes descrie intr-o naratiune ce este o satira cu iz politic pronuntat dublura portretului caracterial. In speta aici doua personaje pot fi luate drept reper, anume Peter Solinski, procurorul sef si Stoyo Petkanov, fostul lider comunist al Bulgariei. Intr-o naratiune care comporta prezentarea starii de libertate inaugurata la inceputuri firave de ani ’90 ai secolului trecut in Europa centrala si de est, prin t
Derek Baldwin
Rather... slight: partly formed, but that’s novellas for you. As a way of revisiting recent, but no longer that recent, history this has great value. It’s also extremely funny at times. But it doesn’t quite satisfy the appetite, unless, maybe, read all in one go. Which I didn’t. The exceptionally tedious pages in which Petkanov lists his honours and the encomia of world leaders (and Canaan Banana) are utterly enervating.
Tom Griggs
Given the author and topic (the trial of a fallen Eastern European dictator), my 3 star rating is largely due to exceedingly high expectations. An interesting character study highlighting the gray areas that exist in what truly represents "right" vs "wrong" in the discussion of various political systems.
Петър Керкелов
Those stories become memorable either if they have grasped the spirit of time or when they are somehow prophetic. This one is neither. In the end of the round, you can always be saved by the bell by a good story. This one is hardly mediocre.
The only reason I gave a second star is that I like depiction of Bulgaria in the early 90s.
Maurizio Manco
"Spesso la storia è soltanto quello che succede. Solo più tardi diventa interessante." (p. 112)
Mar 02, 2015 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
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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.” 1 likes
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