Nothing to be frightened of

Barnes ( and may have equals on the English language literary scene but none, I think, better. Here he dissects the sense of his own mortality in a crafted prose that is breathtaking in its poise and elegance.

He asks 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, the author looks into the various arguments for and against and with God, and at the bloodline whose archivist, following his parents’ death, he has become. This is another realm of mystery, wherein a drawer of mementos and his own memories (not to mention those of his philosopher brother, the Aristotle specialist Jonathan Barnes) often fail to connect. There are other ancestors, too. These are 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 a fantastic breadth of intellect. At once serious, playful and hilarious, this is a highly personal tour of the human condition. I find that its vision is also mine. How about you?


Enquire at your local library or available at


256 pages in Vintage paperback edition

First published 2008

ISBN 978-0099523741


Julian Barnes

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