Nothing to be Frightened of

Nothing to be Frightened of

Paperback Vintage Books

By (author) Julian Barnes

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm x 16mm | 183g
  • Publication date: 5 March 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099523744
  • ISBN 13: 9780099523741
  • Sales rank: 26,904

Product description

'I don't believe in God, but I miss Him.' Julian Barnes' new book is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his philosopher brother, a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the French writer Jules Renard. Though he warns us that 'this is not my autobiography', the result is a tour of the mind of one of our most brilliant writers.

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Author information

Julian Barnes is the author of twelve novels, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, Arthur & George and most recently The Sense of an Ending, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. He has also written three books of short stories, Cross Channel, The Lemon Table and Pulse; and three collections of journalism, Letters from London, Something to Declare and The Pedant in the Kitchen. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only British writer to have won both the Prix Medicis (for Flaubert's Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking it Over). In 2004 he received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, and in 2011 he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature. He lives in London.

Review quote

"Both fun and funny. It is sharp too, in the sense of painful as well as witty... Barnes dissects with tremendous verve and insight this awesome inevitability of death and its impact on the human psyche. He also tears at your heart" New Statesman "A maverick form of family memoir that is mainly an extended reflection on the fear of death and on that great consolation, religioous belief... It is entertaining, intriguing, absorbing...an inventive and invigorating slant on what is nowadays called 'life writing'. It took me hours to write this review because each reference to my notes set me off rereading; that is a reviewer's ultimate accolade" -- Penelope Lively Financial Times "A brilliant bible of elegant despair...that most urgent kind of self-help manual: the one you must read before you die" -- Tim Adams Vogue "Intensely fascinating" The Times "An elegant memoir and meditation. A deep seismic tremor of a book that keeps rumbling and grumbling in the mind for weeks thereafter" Garrison Keillor

Editorial reviews

Life's a bichon, and then you die.Elegant and eloquent, Barnes (Arthur & George, 2006, etc.) arrives a touch belatedly on a well-worked scene: namely, English writers pondering and arguing the existence or nonexistence of God. Barnes inclines toward the golden mean: "I don't believe in God," he writes, "but I miss Him." He was once more inclined to the atheism of Hitchens, Dawkins et al., but now, 62 years on, he admits to less certainty and "more awareness of ignorance," to say nothing of a growing understanding that the good times on this side of the grass are finite. On that point, one of this slim memoir's finest moments is a vignette of just a couple of paragraphs about disposing of his recently deceased parents' stuff, sending some of it off to the consignment shop, some to the recycling center and shamefacedly tossing the rest and feeling a little queasy in the bargain, "as if I had buried my parents in a paper bag rather than a proper coffin." All this musing on death and the divine makes Pascal's wager an ever more attractive proposition, even if Barnes readily recognizes that one of the most powerful impulses for religion is the knowledge - and consequent dread - of death, the great divide in life being between those who fear the end and those who do not. Rambling along amiably, the author stops to look in on some famous last words - Hegel's, for one, who said before expiring, "Only one man ever understood me, and he didn't understand me." Barnes also composes a lovely, oh-so-English self-effacing obituary for himself, confessing to a love of love, friendship, books and the wine bottle. He ends with a meditation on how that obituary might be occasioned, though the reader will hope that he proves right in reckoning himself only three-fourths of the way down the walk toward the light.Gentle and lucid - a welcome change from the polemical tone of so many books on the matter (or antimatter, if you like) of the big guy upstairs. (Kirkus Reviews)