Two years after the best-selling Arthur & George, Julian Barnes gives us a memoir on mortality that touches on faith and science and family as well as a rich array of exemplary figures who over the centuries have confronted the same questions he now poses about the most basic fact of life: its inevitable extinction.
If the fear of death is “the most rational thing in the world,” how does one contend with it? An atheist at twenty, an agnostic at sixty, Barnes looks into the various arguments for and against and with God, and at the bloodline whose archivist, following his parents’ death, he has become—another realm of mystery, wherein a drawer of mementos and his own memories (not to mention those of his philosopher brother) often fail to connect. There are other ancestors, too: the writers—“most of them dead, and quite a few of them French”—who are his daily companions, supplemented by composers and theologians and scientists whose similar explorations are woven into this account with an exhilarating breadth of intellect and felicity of spirit.
Deadly serious, masterfully playful, and surprisingly hilarious, Nothing to Be Frightened Of is a riveting display of how this supremely gifted writer goes about his business and a highly personal tour of the human condition and what might follow the final diagnosis.
About the Author
Julian Barnes once told London's Observer that he writes fiction "to tell beautiful, exact, and well-constructed lies which enclose hard and shimmering truths." Indeed, this is what Barnes does, sometimes spiking his lies with fact -- most notably in Flaubert's Parrot, the novel that became his breakthrough book. The story of a retired doctor obsessed with the French author, it combines a literary detective story with a character study of its detective, including facts about Flaubert along the way.
Before Flaubert's Parrot propelled him into the company of Ian McEwan and Martin Amis in British authordom, Barnes had been moderately successful with the novels Metroland (which later became the 1997 movie starring Emily Watson and Christian Bale) and Before She Met Me. He was also known to Brits as a newspaper TV critic. Parrot and Barnes's subsequent "Letters from London" in The New Yorker helped expand the author's Stateside following.
"A lot of novelists set up a kind of franchise, and turn out a familiar product," friend and fellow author Jay McInerney told the Guardian in 2000. "But what I like about Jules's work is that he's like an entrepreneur who starts up a new company every time out." Among other ambitious themes, Barnes has explored the collapse of communism (The Porcupine) the Disneyfication of culture (England, England), the simple dynamics of relationships (Talking It Over and its sequel, Love, Etc.), and the connections between art, religion, and death (The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters).
Barnes has also produced collections of essays, a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, and a family memoir (Nothing to Be Frightened Of) that also serves as a meditation on mortality.
"Beautiful and funny. . . . An elegant memoir and meditation, a deep seismic tremor of a book that keeps rumbling and grumbling in the mind for weeks thereafter." -"The New York Times Book Review ""Brilliantly written and also funny . . . cunningly composed . . . held together in a rather Proustian fashion . . . Barnes has an extremely lively mind, and a distinctive voice, which gives a certain welcome jauntiness or gaiety to his darker musings." -Frank Kermode, "The New York Review of Books ""A delicious mix of personal reminiscence, family history, literary criticism, and philosophical speculation."""-"The Philadelphia Inquirer ""Barbarously intelligent [and] a rare thing in literature . . . marvelously engaging, even uplifting . . . Briskly, rigorously, this unusual book gives us something to think about until that nothingness comes knocking." -NPR "Beautifully done . . . an extended meditation on human mortality, but one that is neither clinical nor falsely consoling. Instead, the witty and melancholic author simply converses with us about our most universal fear." -"The Washington Post" "Surprisingly jocular-although also dead earnest . . . highly literary, thoughtful but playful." -"San Francisco Chronicle ""Very entertaining and, best of all, wholesomely provocative." -"O, The Oprah Magazine" "Barnes is a writer of impulsive insights, many of them remarkable . . . of humane irony, antic imagination, and unsettling perceptiveness. He constructs a many-leveled scaffolding of argument, memoir, literary reference, and musings all around the dark pit." -"The Boston Globe" "For those who think that facing death is life's most pressing test, Barnes is an amiable and articulate companion [who] sees humor in the impossibility of finding lasting comfort . . . His contemplation of death invariably becomes a treatise on living." -"The Tennessean" "[Nothing to Be Frightened Of] call[s] to mind Woody Allen . .
Series: Vintage International
Number Of Pages: 243
Published: 6th October 2009
Dimensions (cm): 20.9 x 12.5 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.254