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Book Title: Barabbas|
The author of the book: Pär Lagerkvist
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 15.71 MB
Edition: Vintage Books
Date of issue: 1951
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Read full description of the books Barabbas:‘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 life haunted by this single event. While he is ‘damned lucky’, emphasis on damned, to be alive, he cannot help but feel life is meaningless anyways and struggles to accept faith in this strange crucified man whom he hears so much about. Powerful and deeply moving, this novel offers a unique, detached perspective on religion and faith, as a parable that is as poignant today as it was back in the religious persecution days of ancient Rome while being able to reach a reader despite any personal religious beliefs.
Lagerkvist built a fruitful career around challenging morality and faith within his readers. His prose is simple and direct, wasting no time with verbose passages, and cuts right to the heart making every word count. This novel, weighing in at a mere 144 pages, is bursting beyond capacity with moral musings and feels more like a novel of epic proportions that a slim novella. He also manages to take a topic that is known for inducing strong, passionate opinions from both sides of the spectrum and writing about it in an objective, removed manner. For example, the opening chapter is the most chilling depiction of the crucifixion on Mouth Golgotha I have ever encountered. Barabbas stands and witnesses the scene with a cold indifference, not knowing anything about the man being crucified. Jesus is never named in the novel, being only referred to as the ‘dead man’ or ‘crucified man’, and it is strange to see him regarded in such an impersonal way, especially in a scene illustrating his violent death. In a way, this objective approach is necessary to fit the lead character, but also makes the ideas easier to swallow as they aren’t tainted by emotion or seeming too slanted either way. There are times when both Christians and atheists will feel he is on their side and other passages where they will find him seemingly aligned against them. I feel this novel can work regardless of a religious opinion, yet as always, one must keep an open mind and allow the novel to unfold. It goes some very dark and disturbing places, and readers should be cautioned that the ironic, enigmatic conclusion is not a light at the end of a tunnel. This novel will challenge all beliefs and portray the world as a cruel, indifferent place as we follow Barabbas on his journey.
The idea of faith is the pulse of this novel. While Barabbas wants so badly to believe, he cannot. He cannot grasp the meaning behind the doctrine to ‘love one another’, simple as it may be, for he has no notion of love. He witnesses many potent events, yet tries to find logical explanations for them. He also cannot grasp how if a man was God, why he would allow himself a slaves death, and furthermore, why he would allow his followers to suffer and be put to death as well. Lagerkvist lays out the foundation to the disbelief of a God found in many people, yet offers slight glimpses of counter arguments: ‘He had used his power in the most extraordinary way. Used it by not using it, as it were; allowed others to decide exactly as they liked; refrained from interfering and yet had got his own way all the same…’ (remind LOST fans of Jacob there?). This crisis of faith causes the world to seem an even more indifferent place than he originally thought, ‘He was not bound together with anyone. Not with anyone at all in the whole world,’ and Lagerkvist pours an ocean of lonesome imagery into later portions of the novel.
Seemingly every word and event is a metaphor of religion, allowing the novel to work on several levels. Barabbas was ‘born hated’ by parents who cared nothing for him, such as the mother who died in childbirth cursing the world and all in it. He is damned from the start, much like the idea of original sin. The accusers of those who are preaching the crucified mans doctrine are often blind or near blind. Pay attention to every detail, as there are many layers to this novel. The book also works as a critique of modern times. The Christians in the book are persecuted for their faith, but it is primarily because it preaches that the lowest of citizens will be set free and equals with all those above them. Without understanding what this means, the Romans want to squash this belief as they want to keep the lepers and beggars and other lower class folk oppressed. Lagerkvist is often critical of those with power, yet shows many of the leaders as decent people and that it is the system and standards that create the cruelty those beneath them suffer. It is interesting how religion and Roman government are juxtaposed in many scenes, often more so to highlight their similarities instead of their differences. Lagerkvist is quite critical of Christians at time, showing many of the staunch followers to be rather hypocritical. They preach love and acceptance, yet seem very exclusive and unwelcoming to people who don’t fit their mold, such as Barabbas and the girl with the hare-lip.
I had read this intending it to be a quick escape after finishing Joyce’s epic novel, yet found myself caught up in the burdenous queries posed by this novel. Lagerkvist has a gift of stirring such strong feelings with so few words. If you enjoy examining faith, this is the book for you. It is a trip through suffering, offering both hope, and crushing visions of the world and death as a meaningless void. I will certainly be returning to the novels of Lagerkvist soon, his simple prose styling and layered meanings are too marvelous to only read one of his books.
I hope I didn't raise anyones blood pressure with this review. Please know that I had no intentions of conveying any opinions regarding religion, either for or against, and was simply trying to review a book with a difficult message. Anything said in this review was with no desire to dispute, argue, or impose any beliefs, just to detail the literary merits of this wonderful novel by an author surely deserving of the Nobel recognition. I would be more than happy to dicuss such topics with any willing person, as I find the various forms of religion fascinating, but this review was intended to be written purely objectively. Sorry for the disclaimer, but this is a touchy subject with many.
Read information about the authorLagerkvist 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) of the Swedish Academy.
Lagerkvist wrote poetry, novels, plays, short stories and essays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951 "for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind."
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