This book is a comprehensive introductory overview of the novels that situates Julian Barnes's work in terms of fabulation and memory, irony and comedy. It pursues a broadly chronological line through Barnes's literary career, but along the way also shows how certain key thematic preoccupations and obsessions seem to tie Barnes's oeuvre together (love, death, art, history, truth, and memory). Chapters provide detailed reading of each major publication in turn while treating the major concerns of Barnes's fiction, including art, authorship, history, love, and religion. Alongside the ‘canonical’ Barnes texts, the book includes discussion of the crime fiction that Barnes has published under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh. This detailed study of fictions of Julian Barnes from Metroland to Arthur & George also benefits from archival research into his unpublished materials.
The contemporary is peculiarly difficult to write about because negligible hindsight and questions of proper context make assessments and judgements more than usually vulnerable. Appraising the work of a living writer is unlikely to cover the entire oeuvre because fresh works may appear. In the case of JulianBarnes, it is also true that he prefers not to be written about by critics, partly because it makes him feel entombed rather than a living voice. As pertinently, Barnes would prefer not to be mediated by the entire book industry. He
1 Christina Patterson, ‘Verlaine and Rimbaud: poets from hell’, The Independent , 8 February 2006, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/verlaine-and-rimbaud-poets-from-hell-525605.html (accessed 26 March 2009).
2 Matthew Pateman describes Toni’s role as representing ‘a macho leftism that seems redundant and cynical’. Pateman, JulianBarnes , p. 5.
3 Stout, ‘Chameleon novelist’, p. 72.
4 In early drafts the chapter had a counterpart in
Much of this would be intolerable without a sense of irony.
JulianBarnes, ‘Candles for the living’ 1
The Porcupine (1992) appeared first in Bulgarian (translated by Dimitrina Kondevo as Bodlivo Svince ) and was only later in the same year released in its original English. It is the political fable of liberalism’s lack of conviction before ideological certainty, set in an East European country moving from communism to liberal democracy, and is informed far more by Bulgarian history
Barnes’s subsequent novels, each of which has had to attempt to fly from under its shadow.
1 ‘JulianBarnes in conversation’, Cercles , 4 (2002), pp. 255–69: p. 259; www.cercles.com .
2 Alison Lee, Realism and Power: Postmodern British Fiction , London: Routledge, 1990, p. 1.
3 Barnes’s letter to ‘Liz’. Unpublished: HRC Barnes holdings Correspondence on Flaubert’s Parrot .
4 Trois Contes is also echoed in one
1 Moseley, ‘JulianBarnes’, pp. 27–37. Moseley is referring to a comment made by Barnes in this interview: Amanda Smith, ‘JulianBarnes’, Publisher’s Weekly , 236:18 (3 November 1989), pp. 73–4.
2 Leslie also reveals an unexplored anti-Semitic prejudice in his aside that ‘your jew doesn’t really enjoy golf’. This would seem to be social observation on Barnes’s part, as he observes that, for example, his parents ‘had the low-level anti-Semitism of their time and class’ (NF, p. 13).
3 Stopes also wrote several
and perennial experimenter, crafting complex and often comical stories with understanding and irony. Formal and linguistic play characterise the fiction but are combined with a fierce intelligence that resists both sentiment and simple answers, opposing the oppressive authority of official accounts and the easy falsifications of willed belief.
1 D. Michael Risinger, ‘Boxes in boxes: JulianBarnes, Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the Edalji Case’ in International Commentary on Evidence
lines of Animal Farm . It is not just that this is an unnatural state of affairs but that it is a naturalised one.
4 John Lancaster, ‘A vision of England’, Daily Telegraph , 29 August 1998, p. 5.
5 Unsigned, ‘He’s turned towards Python. (But not the dead Flaubert’s Parrot sketch …)’, Observer Review (London), 30 August 1998, p. 15 (interview upon the publication of England, England ), reprinted in Guignery and Roberts, Conversations with JulianBarnes , p. 27.
6 This is a view repeated
4 The colour is significant: ‘The red horse is choler: not mere anger, but natural fieryness, what we call passion.’ D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse , Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1974, p. 62.
5 Ibid., pp. 60–1.
6 D. H. Lawrence, ‘Fantasia of the unconscious’ in Fantasia of the Unconscious/Psychoanalysis of the Unconscious , Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1971, pp. 170–1.
7 Merritt Moseley, Understanding JulianBarnes , Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1997, p. 54.
A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (1989) aims to insinuate more of the ordinary and the exceptional into other people's orbit. From the opening story, told from the position of an animal stowaway, to the final summation of an average life, the book focuses on people whom history would seldom highlight but who illustrate its processes and vagaries: Lawrence Beesley, Miss Fergusson, and Kath Ferris. Barnes's fourth novel has love as its chief stowaway. Love, which intrudes into this book most conspicuously in its half-chapter, opposes history and orthodoxy because its story is individual and personal, though not necessarily happy. It purports to argue that truth lies in the need to believe in illusions such as free will, that survival resides in the need to love despite the failures of love, and that objective history rests on the need for collective silence over the certainty of fallacy.