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study of fictions of Julian Barnes from Metroland to Arthur & George also benefits from archival research into his unpublished materials.
aesthetic experiments on themselves when listening to music, seeking to document the civilising force of exposure to artistic excellence. Their thoughts are hemmed in by the large abstractions they idolise, elevating but also reifying their lives in terms of a search for truth, art, love, language, self, and, ironically, authenticity.
As is common in his writings, Barnes works with a three-part structure in Metroland , but there is little sense of dialectic movement from thesis through antithesis to synthesis; instead Barnes shapes a there
Men were supposed to know, and women were supposed not to mind how they had found out. Jean didn’t mind: it was silly to worry about Michael’s life before she met him.
Staring at the Sun , p. 40
Barnes’s second novel can be read on its own as a darkly comic story of paranoid love leading to violence and self-destruction. However, as a follow-up to Metroland it has a context lent to it by the first book and a specific place in Barnes’s development as a novelist. Superficially a study
considered a Francophile, like his brother, who has taught at the Sorbonne as well as at Geneva and Oxford universities.
Educated at the private City of London School for boys, Julian Barnes became a suburban commuter, like Chris in Metroland . Reminding the reader of the pilot Prosser in Staring at the Sun , the family rented out the top floor of their house to military air personnel, Barnes’s father having been an adjutant in the air force in India. As a boy, Barnes’s reading included Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Voltaire, and Verlaine, and he has
Metroland . It is not so much the experience of dying that Christopher Lloyd fears in that novel, as what comes after: ‘I wouldn’t mind Dying at all, I thought, as long as I didn’t end up Dead at the end of it’ (M, p. 54). While in Metroland Christopher is for the most part privately tormented by any thought of eternal oblivion, at The Lemon Table death-talk is de rigueur . Taking his cue from the lemon’s supposed representation of death in Chinese symbolism, Barnes’s book is so called because he has demanded of himself that each story talks about the shortcomings of
; at first I minded, I thought less of myself’ (FP, p. 162). Like Graham Hendrick, Braithwaite is interested in the past; he is not an historian but he is exercised by the receding coast of time fading from view and memory.
The chapter called ‘Snap!’ is about coincidences, or when two things match, as though a literary hand is at work organising life like art (cf. the discussion of Baudelairian ‘correpondences’ in Metroland ). The game of snap proceeds by two people in turns laying down a card from their stash. If the face value of two
. Barnes’s novels are littered with self-deceivers from Graham Hendrick in Before She Met Me to Arthur Conan Doyle in Arthur & George . His fiction is also littered with those who make compromises with life but do so through acceptance rather than wilfulness, from Chris in Metroland to Martha in England, England , the book we shall examine next. As this book has tried to argue throughout, Barnes is a comic novelist and it would be short-sighted to see The Porcupine as largely devoid of humour when it is akin to a satire of the kind more explicitly undertaken by
widespread consumption of these sources, more so for the
books than the films, helped produce a changed mindset that allowed roads
to be seen as modern and necessary, which, in turn, allowed the car to be
seen as desirable and normal.
The arterial road in suburban formation and
The building of housing estates in response to, or sometimes in advance
of, new railway services has been strongly emphasised in much British
suburban history, with the formation of Metro-Land by the Metropolitan
Railway being one well-known example. In studies of suburbia in the
, preceded by eight alternative moments the painter might have chosen, with eight accompanying notes explaining the pros and cons of each possibility, none of which Géricault selected: ‘the painting which survives is the one that outlives its own story. Religion decays, the icon remains; a narrative is forgotten, yet its representation still magnetizes’ (HW, p. 133). Such is also the view to which Chris and Toni subscribe during their National Gallery experiments in Metroland , though they expected to be able to record the visible signs of people being magnetized
Metroland , have developed a close but uneasy relationship into adulthood. In the first novel Stuart and Gillian marry and the unfolding story follows the loquacious and erudite Oliver’s growing obsession with Gillian, who eventually leaves Stuart for his best friend. The sequel throws this process into reverse as the practical and dogmatic Stuart tries to win Gillian back; it concludes with Gillian still married to Oliver, but pregnant by Stuart. Each of the three characters muses over the possible futures they have, with or without each other. An ending that resists