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study of fictions of Julian Barnes from Metroland to Arthur & George also benefits from archival research into his unpublished materials.
in Chapter Six of Flaubert’s Parrot .
Part of the intrigue of Arthur & George is directed at the play on distinctions between fact and fabulation, and Barnes seems deeply sceptical throughout his fiction of the notion of an accurate version of events. I would like none the less to précis the sequence of historical events Barnes was concerned with when shaping the plot of the novel. George Edalji was born in 1876, two years after his parents married, and eight years before the family moved to the rural mining district of Great Wyrley in
alternative modes of writing: generic fabulation. With regard to England, England , Barnes describes fabulation this way: ‘convincing ourselves of a coherence between things that are largely true and things that are wholly imagined.’ 10 He also refers to history as a ‘soothing fabulation’ in A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters (HW, p. 242), underlining the processes of construction and reconstruction in shaping the past, whether individual or collective. Elsewhere in interview he expands on this viewpoint: ‘History, that controlling narrative of the literate, was
cover the facts we don’t know or can’t accept; we keep a few true facts and spin a new story round them. Our panic and our pain are only eased by soothing fabulation; we call it history’ (HW, p. 242, echoing p. 109). As I noted in the Introduction, Barnes glosses fabulation in interview as
a medical term for what you do when a lot of your brain has been destroyed either by a stroke or by alcoholism, or that sort of thing. And – it’s rather gratifying for the novelist – the human mind can’t exist without the illusion of a full story. So it
Woman Warrior (‘crossing boundaries not delineated in space’), is employed as a metaphor for two aspects of Kingston’s work: its cultural politics, derived from her gendered cross-cultural identity, and its aesthetic practice, in particular the generic boundary crossings of her memoirs which are a mixture of autobiography and biography, history and myth, memory and fabulation. Keenan argues that such a mixture, although common in much postmodern writing, takes on a particular salience in Kingston’s case since it provides her with a means to tease out the multiple
reside somewhere between fabulation and projection. Death is inevitable and God the greatest fiction, (even) though truth can be found in the beauty and consolation of art. This is not the radical scepticism of postmodernism but the frustration of modernism: Barnes does not seem to deny the existence of reality, but he does appear repeatedly to question our ability to know it. Instead, we can seek to be more or less deceived about our lives (Geoffrey Braithwaite), the lives of those closest to us (Ellen Braithwaite), and those lives we seek (Gustave Flaubert) if we
Translatina world-making in The Salt Mines and Wildness
: Queers of Color and the Performance of
Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Muñoz, J. E. (2009). Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity.
New York: New York University Press.
Namaste, V. (2005). ‘Beyond image content: Examining transsexuals’ access to the
media’, in Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and
Imperialism. Toronto: Women’s Press, pp. 41–59.
Visibility and vulnerability
Nyong’o, T. (2013). ‘Wildness: A fabulation’, S&F Online. http://sfonline.barnard.edu/
more pacifist, and community-affirming, in emphasis.
Like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin by Shui-hu Chuan is also ‘by and large recorded in a vernacular’. 36 Perhaps even more than the other Chinese texts utilised by Kingston, The Water Margin is an apposite text for Wittman to adopt and adapt. C.T. Hsia writes that here ‘we see the wholesale importation of oral conventions … and in the absence of authentic history we see a conscious fabulation of pseudo-history … several sagas of picaresque heroes depicted in
, perhaps Lights Out seems more inflected by ‘declinism’ than Downriver : in his 1991 novel, Sinclair draws upon what he has characterised as the ‘demonic’ energies of Thatcherism to create a text of some force and energy.
Witness and agent
The form of Downriver itself reflects the ‘break-up of Britain’. The text consists of twelve ‘tales’, which do not in themselves form a coherent narrative. While roughly mapped onto a journey down the River Thames (the river providing a kind of fluid backbone for the fabulations
that ‘it just damn well ain’t true’ (CPr, 341). Picking up Curtius’ reference to Bergson, furthermore, Olson warns against history by way of
soothing stories: ‘It is not the Beast we are in danger from. It is, the
Beauty. Bergson was wrong. Or half-right. The fabulation function is
man’s uniqueness. But when he uses it to make the Bauble?’ (CPr, 340)
No, Olson decides ‘[i]t better be Walter Prescott Webb you use as backfire
to check this book’. As an American, Webb knows ‘that where tales are
today is not in stories but in things, in Colt, revolvers’ (CPr, 339