Sunday, May 1, 2011

Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist

Par Lagerkvist is a Swedish author, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961.  Barabbas is his novella examining the life of Barabbas, the man pardoned so that Christ would be crucified in his place.  In my opinion, it is a fascinated concept for a story.  Lagerkvist for the most part delivers on the promise of that concept.

Still, it is a difficult book to review.  Lagerkvist hits the reader with so much to ponder.  There is a lot to think about here, especially for such a small book, and it's often hard to nail down the message, if there is one.  Evidently, Lagerkvist struggled to understand his faith, and that comes through in his book to a degree.  For most of the book, I felt that the book would be equally accessible to non-believers and believers; and Christians and people of other faiths.  It is mostly the story of a man living with an incredible burden.  The story of a man who has never been loved, trying to understand a faith whose singular message is to "love one another."  In that regards, I'd say Barabbas is universal.  However, the conclusion is filled with religious symbolism.  And it left me wondering, how the non-believer would approach the subject.  Again, making the book somewhat difficult to review with the possible exception that I would say the Christian reader would probably enjoy Barabbas, as I did, despite the fact that Christians don't get a pass in the book.  In fact, it was surprising to me that Lagerkvist depicted many of the early Christians much as we see many of the modern Christians.  I was reminded of Gandhi's quote, "I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

At any rate, I'm going to recommend Barabbas, especially for Christians as it gave this Christian much to think about.  More tentatively to non-Christians, because at it's heart it is a compelling portrait of humanity.