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


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.

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


Compared with the sweepingly literary pieces which form the bulk of this work, the author begins oddly with a sort of clinical treatise on the socio-economic position and threatened evolution of the European peasant. It's an introduction which nevertheless leaks the intent...solidarity and romantic memorialization of the ways of the "backward", and admiration of cultures resisting nefarious progress. And so follows the collection of 10 short fictions, 7 poems, and handful of guilelessly superfluous illustrations (which do enhance the impression of random collectivity you get from turning the pages). The fictions vary in length (2-50 pages), and in tone--alternately dry (like discussing a family's work in an abattoir) to high-flown and impressionistic (a long dreamlike section detailing a barn-raising among ghosts of the dead-by-violence). The book uses that collectivity well, building on the vignette style, and after this stretch of vacillation, comes together in the long pieces at the end...esp in the form of John Berger's anti-heroine(?), Lucie Cabrol, the dwarfish spinster that embodies the willfullness, sensitivity, and industry he promises to memorialize in the intro. She is a woman unvalued by city and village alike, but who still finds self-mastery outside of others' praise through her enhanced connection to the earth around her. And ultimately, she's conferred with a spirit and unexpected capacity for love that outstrips that of both the wordly and the ignorant..


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


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!!!


Really enjoyable collection of vignettes/short stories/novellas depicting life in a rural Alpine village. I really enjoyed this book and will look for others from him. Berger won a Booker, then started writing about rural Alpine villages and then moved to one himself and published only lightly thereafter.

TJ Beitelman

Well. I'm not objective. I believe that John Berger is a sage. His work makes my eyes go like Mowgli in that part of The Jungle Book where that crazy snake makes his eyes go all googly. So. Clearly you can take this review with a grain of salt. And I'm not even going to review it like normal. There's good parts about peasants and nipples and the part about how they kill animals for meat and it both kills them and doesn't kill them in equal parts. Etc.But this is the part that really matters to me:So I'm reading it and I'm loving it so I'm trying to do the thing where you read a gajillion pages at once because you can't stop reading. That said, at the end, I got to the point where I was tired and my head was nodding and I wasn't exactly registering every single word. But! I wanted to keep reading. BUT. I said, now wait. You have four pages left and is THIS the way you want to engage the last four pages of THIS book? And the answer was an emphatic no. You want to SAVOR the last four pages of this book. So. I'm saving them. For the weekend. Which is four days from now. Just because this is a gratification well worth delaying.


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.

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?


Surely not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, I prefer Berger's nonfiction. However these stories of peasant in rural France were mesmerizing to me.

Cece Timek

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

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.


The kind of book where you want to write down and remember every description- sketches of peasant life in France- beautiful stories. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy- highly recommended.


Mr. Berger likes to get a little sentimental (why? I love you so much) and with his novel To The Wedding, I bought it but with Pig Earth, I didn't. I liked what he was doing here with jumping back and forth between poetry and story but it never captivated me (not even for a couple of pages). A gifted writer (excellent prose) but this story was just okay at best.


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.

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