Pig Earth

ISBN: 0747543038
ISBN 13: 9780747543039
By: John Berger

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About this book

Set in a small village in the French Alps, this book relates the stories of sceptical, hard-working men and fiercely independent women.

Reader's Thoughts

Neil Hanson

Whether or not you share his politics, John Berger writes like a dream and this is a brilliant evocation of a remote French farming community


I loved this book and the whole trilogy. Have re-read and would love to read again... But l lent my copy ... Never to be returned ... Couldn't buy a new copy as out of print!!!


I could have given this a four based on the last long story: The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol.

Justin Evans

Hey, I've got an idea! Why don't I write a trilogy of books about the French peasantry in the post-war period. And I'll combine vignettes, novellae, poems and short stories. And I'll do it all using the tricks of modernist literary prose. Oh, and I'll add an indignant, didactic essay at the start. Sounds... well, it sounds like a godawful idea, but somehow Berger makes it work, and work pretty well. He writes beautifully; he doesn't romanticize the way of life he's trying to describe, but nor does he vilify it; he mixes in humor pretty well; his characters aren't unduly literary. On the down-side, the dialogue is super-stilted. It actually reads like French dialogue translated into English, which is charmless but also, in a weird way, makes it feel more authentic: these are real French peasants who've been translated into English! Anyway, I read this after reading somewhere that it's comparable to McCarthy's Border Trilogy. The first book of this one's better than the first book of that one in a few ways, less impressive in a few others. But I certainly want to read the next two. A solid 3.5 stars, but I'm trying to be sparing with my stars.


Mr. Berger. I only know of him because of Ways of Seeing, required internship reading from my boss at the New Yorker. He strove to make a sophisticated young lady out of me. Many years later, I can't remember who recommended this lesser Berger title to me, but I find Pig Earth particularly appropriate to my creative writing class. It alternates between short-storyish chapters and poems. My teacher has given our 151 class the vaguely perverse theme of "genre bending." I was pleasantly surprised to find an example of genre bending that is about peasants, and tastes of brown bread. The last few chapters... blueberry stains on a dead woman's lips... had me stuck in the book until I finished it, at the expense of both work and school.


As a work of fiction, I don't care if Berger romanticized the lives of French peasants. The stories are poignant and beautifully told. Berger's prose is some of the best.

Jenny Zhang

John Berger, I love you. There are so few of you in the world of literature: radical, eloquent, full of heart, politically active, socially conscious, in short, intellectually smokin', but this book is fucking stupid.The only thing worse than reading a humorless book that sentimentalizes the plight of peasants living in a village in the French Alps is reading it while living with peasants in a Romanian village and seeing that humor and wit is indeed possible, if not necessary in the writing of a book like this one.Still, I love you Mr. Berger. Always will.

Raymond Craib

This is the first volume of a trilogy (Into Their Labours) and, while the book is great alone, it is best read in conjunction with the other two volumes (Once in Europa; Lilac and Flag) because the narrative rhythm of each book conforms or relates to the social and economic changes experienced by the villagers (and village) who are the main protagonists of the work. It is a remarkable trilogy, very powerful, moving, and humane.


its a matter of place to what we know but its a matter of community as in how we grow the industrail shift from county to city takes most the community out of everyones visible labour and prehaps common knowledge of life


This is not my favorite Berger (I prefer Shape of a Pocket and From A to X), but like all his work, it's beautiful and rare. The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, if nothing else, is worth the whole book, but I love the earlier stories as well.


takes the mystique out of rural life

Cece Timek

This book makes me want to go back in time and live the life of a peseant.

Tamara Taylor

Beautifully written, visceral and haunting. Berger is an master craftsman. The subject matter, while some of it near and dear to me, leaves something to be desired. Do people really want to read about slaughtering a cow, no matter how well written it is?


I picked this book up from a street sale and read it with great pleasure. A neat look into French rural life. Fun to read the short stories depicting a time of life that is rapidly disappearing but ultimately necessary. Time, life, resources, weather, hardship, food. The poems were okay.


First book of the Into Their Labours trilogy (with Once in Europa and Lilac and Flag. The three have to be read together. It's a true trilogy; the books are distinct (and even have different forms--Pig Earth mixes short stories and poetry, Lilac and Flag is the only one that's a novel as such), and stand on their own, but the sum is much greater than the individual parts. One of the greatest works written in English in the past 50 years.

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