Sausages and Higher Things
- 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.
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.