I’ve not read any Julian Barnes before but as of a few days ago, he’s definitely on my list of ‘Must Read More From This Guy’. You may recall my recent concerns about my tolerance for literature and how I’d decided to read something short to see if I could get my reading mojo back, and this was how I settled on the wonderfully short (144 pages) The Porcupine.
Now, this novel was hailed as great work of satire, although I’m going to be honest and tell you that this was lost on me. I’ve normally got a keen eye for the old satire, and this just wasn’t it for me. That said, the book didn’t suffer as a result.
The main (in fact, the only) storyline is about a former Soviet dictator, who is still vehemently old school, and is standing trial for a variety of crimes against the people. The chief prosecutor is very much of the New Way, and what results is an interesting battle of wills (and wits) between the two. We end up rather liking the dictator, just because he’s so damned smart.
I have to say that a healthy
interest fascination with Russia, her history and the former Soviet block may be necessary to enjoy this book, but if you just feel like reading something quick and fluid, then it’ll do for that too. If nothing else, perhaps the workings of a mind of a dictator might be of interest to you, and I believe that Barnes has nailed this here.
My one (and perhaps major criticism) of The Porcupine is that it wasn’t developed enough. Barnes introduced at least four other characters all of whom had great potential, but they got nothing more than a few paragraphs each. I’m not really sure why he did that, but I wonder if his purpose was served. He also started to explore some of the huge cultural shifts in Russia and her surrounding nations over the last 20 years, but again, this narrative seems to fall short. I would have liked if he had concentrated more on this to compliment the inner workings of the trial, but for some reason he didn’t. I would have been happy to read more.
Of course, had he done all that, the book would have ended up about 400 pages long and this here hooligan would be complaining again, but sure you can’t have everything.
I’m now on to Platform. I’ve been too tired to read the last few nights but it’s got potential so far.