Peter Childs
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Intricate rented world
Staring at the Sun
in Julian Barnes
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Staring at the Sun (1986) is an examination of the virtue of courage that is extraordinary. Barnes's fourth novel records moments in the life of an ordinary woman, Jean Serjeant, up to a flight she takes in 2021, on which she twice sees the sun setting. The metaphor of the book's title implies that human beings have to stare courageously at the fact of a godless universe: stoically face life as chaotic, but beautiful and marvelous, and death as final, without the consolations offered by religion. The book shares thematic concerns with much of Barnes's other work in its interest in the nature of death and truth; but in this novel, the connections with the shape and course of one individual's life are clearer than in most of his writings. In the book's imagery, Jean is like the mink: tenacious of life.

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