Sausages and Higher Things

Patrick Parrinder

  • The Porcupine by Julian Barnes
    Cape, 138 pp, £9.99, November 1992, ISBN 0 224 03618 1

‘It seems to me the further east you go the more unpunctual are the trains.’ Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the source for this epigraph to the best-known British novel of the Eighties set in Eastern Europe, Malcolm Bradbury’s Rates of Exchange. The Soviet Empire in those distant days was scarcely conceivable to English novelists except as a setting for a comedy or a thriller – two genres which tend to lionise the Englishman abroad, and to subtly belittle the natives. There are no English characters in The Porcupine, thank goodness. Julian Barnes’s seventh novel is a brief but wholly serious example of political fiction, and, if I had to choose an epigraph for it, it would come from Arthur Koestler rather than Bram Stoker.

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