This short novel by the well known author Julian Barnes needs no introduction from me. It was a 2011 Booker Prize winning novel. This is the first work of Mr. Barnes that I have read and I will now actively seek out his other works.
In short, it is about the times of our lives, lived forwards and backwards. A general history of human foibles in fact and in memory as we scale from adolescence onward. At first, when the plot is housed in public school and university I thought I would tell my son to read it. As a parent there is that all knowing, been there before attitude about it. As it progresses to middle age, it evidences the long term adolescence of men. I will let my son read it later. It would be interesting to see if Mr. Barnes would alter the work if it was rewritten with a female narrator protagonist.
The theme of the book is well trodden territory, so it is hard for me to explain why it is compelling. There are historical, art and other “intellectual” references that make this more than a fast read, which remains unpretentious. To an American, it seems to be the product of a good English education, while mocking it all the same. Definitely an English novel in this regard, it lightly plows class consciousness between the middle class and upper- crust. It is a novel about consequences, both unintended and not. It is a life, with all its limitations.
I tend to read or discard many books at once. Some I may stop reading, because at the time, it turns out not be be what I feel like reading at the time. I might revisit such a book if it is distinctive in approach. This may be the case with Marek Bienczyk’s philosophical novel “Transparency”. It is an examination of transparency from a cultural, literary and historyical perspective. It may be more essay, than fiction. Bernard Comment’s “The Shadow of Memory” for me might improve if I read further, but the plot is so contrived at the outset, that I have lost interest. It too is about time and memory. I would opt for Mr. Barnes’ work instead. Sometimes authors try to hard.
I am still plodding through Marcel Beyer’s “Kaltenburg” which I mentioned previously might be attractive to ornithologists. For me, it has yet to take flight. Finally, there is “2013 Best European Fiction”, edited by Aleksandar Hemon with a preface by John Banville. I like short stories, but usually steer clear of anthologies because of the politics of compilation. I could be wrong, but there seems to be works by a lot of editors here. Having read a few I was not impressed. As had been said of pornography, you know good writing when you see (read) it. I have decided to opt for those authors that may have been awarded some prize for literature. While these awards may have been political, thus far it has improved my chance of reading better efforts. Perhaps these stories are what John Banville read before lending his name to this collection.