Barbarer Barbarians

The time: one year before the fall of the wall. Brothers Ion and Florian escape from a Romanian orphanage and flee up into the Carpathians. Thus begins a story stretching over a few years when the map of Europe was re-drawn, and the continent plummeted down through the centuries as through a black hole. At the center is Swedish Ann-Marie who has just gotten out of a heavy drug addiction. She was once a poet. She follows a song coming from within that leads her to a child whom she adopts, and the search for this child’s origins takes her over the entire continent. The trip through a changing Europe is woven together with shorter texts which turn out to be standing less by themselves than it seems. From this mosaic of stories a singular pattern emerges, drawing on the power and depth of myth.


  • “It is as suspenseful as the whodunits of Robert Goddard, but this is great literature with an existential and political depth that crime novels usually lack. /…/ Barbarians is without a doubt one of the best novels I’ve read. It somehow has everything. /…/ Barbarians is a fantastic novel and you wish it would never end.”

    Internationalen, Sweden

  • “Arnald’s play with fictitious names and documents produces the dizzying feeling of the fantastic. /…/ Barbarians can be viewed as a product of the modern learned suspense novel as cultivated by A S Byatt, Umberto Eco and Peter Hoeg. /…/ Virtuoso it is, the type of novel that sometimes is accused of being too artful, too smart for its own good. Not to my dislike, if so be it. Here is a perfect page turner for black berets, a fabulous meta novel with an aesthetical involvement that makes splinters of the Swedish Windsor chair prose.”

    Expressen, Sweden

  • “An intricate weave of eternity, Jan Arnald’s new novel Barbarians is a serpentine arabesque. Arnald pieces together a captivating intellectual puzzle in the spirit of Umberto Eco … Arnald’s driven and lovingly pastiche like prose speaks to both the heart and the mind…”

    Upsala Nya Tidning, Sweden

  • “Arnald stages a play and good meta literary tradition and style with predecessors such as A S Byatt, Umberto Eco, Kerstin Ekman and now also Lars Jakobson. .. a charming book, that does not take itself utterly seriously, but lets it all be wound up in cold blood and with good humor. …Arnald’s novel is intelligent and packed with emotion and incredily ambitious… Jan Arnald is an awe-inspiring European guide on earthly and infernal grounds.”

    Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

  • “Not since Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose have I read a book that evokes the mysterious glow of history better than Jan Arnald’s Barbarians. It is a novel that captures the hypnotic ambience that comes with historical problems and the obsession brought on by their solutions. It is a historic-romantic puzzle, a novel of ideas about European identity and compassionate solidarity right smack in the middle of our time… Barbarians is a peculiar novel and a grand reading experience. It has the suspense of a thriller without a single murder being committed and the intellectual lucidity of an essay.”

    Hudiksvalls Tidning, Sweden

  • Barbarians reminds you of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum but perhaps even more of Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Sense for Snow as it is undisputably more public friendly. …Arnalds’s novel is impressively well worked through. Stylistically it is confident, and the pieces of the plot fall nicely into place. Many of the historical flashbacks are ingenious and interesting… Many readers will surely like Barbarians, above all because there is a joy of telling that makes for entertaining reading.”

    Norrköpings Tidningar, Sweden

  • Barbarians is a grand and well calculated novel project whose entire vision emerges as an ongoing research project. … Facts and speculation are skilfully and with much joy linked together in the civilisation critical intrigue that become an hommage to research as a way of life. … If you believe it, Barbarians is a grandiose party…”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

Photo: Sara Arnald Jan Arnald
  • Literary
Reading material

Swedish edition

Rights sold

Germany, Piper

Sweden, Albert Bonniers

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