May 20, 2013 | 09:52 AM (BD Time)
20 May, 2013 Monday
Julian Barnes : Biography and literature
(From previous issue)
In 1982 this work was followed by After She Met Me, a novel chronicling love, obsession, and jealousy. Two years later, in 1984 Flaubert's Parrot was met with much critical acclaim, including nomination to the short list for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Flaubert's Parrot details the travels of a retired British doctor in France against the backdrop of his fascination with Gustav Flaubert. As is emblematic of Barnes' work, Flaubert's Parrot transcends the boundaries of traditional literary conventions and genres, combining fiction, literary criticism, and biography.
Two years later, Barnes published Staring at the Sun, (1986) investigating the 'ordinary' life of a woman over the course of 100 years, beginning in the 1920's. Throughout his early career Julian Barnes led a literary double life publishing four crime novels under the alias Dan Kavanagh. Titles include: Duffy (1980); Fiddle City (1981); Putting the Boot In (1985); Going to the Dogs (1987). The tetralogy features Duffy, a bisexual ex-detective crime sleuthing through the dark side of Soho, London's Heathrow Airport, the English countryside, and minor league soccer.
A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters was published amidst the historical and momentous turmoil of 1989, to much critical acclaim again. Described by Salman Rushdie as "Frequently brilliant, funny, thoughtful, iconoclastic and a delight to read," the work once again transcends genres of history, literary theory, and fiction thus establishing Barnes as an interdisciplinary intellectual, postmodern in his questioning of the grand narratives of modernism, and his transgression and admixture of theoretical boundaries, literary conventions, and narrative structures. As appropriate to the explosive historical moment, the collapse of the Berlin wall and the restructuring of European political and conceptual life, Julian Barnes' methodology in A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters has been described as 'pyrotechnical', combining the intensity and fire of passion as art.
Indicative of Julian Barnes' mining of subject matter across a vast and varied terrain, his next novel, Talking it Over (1991), focuses on the lives of three people involved in a love triangle, exploring and challenging literary conventions through writing only in the first person. This work was awarded the Prix Feminina Étranger in France.
Leaping across borders and boundaries once again, Julian Barnes published The Porcupine (1992), a novel set amidst the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. The novel explores and questions themes of nationalism and history. Barnes then released his first work of non-fiction, Letters from London (1995), a compilation of essays written during his tenure as literary correspondent to The New Yorker (1990-1995). Next, Barnes released Cross Channel (1996), a collection of short stories exploring the confluences and divergences between England and France.
In England, England (1998), Julian Barnes focuses his dark and satirical lens on what he critiques as 'theme park culture', exploring topics such as simulacra, reality, culture, art, myth, and national identity all with his typically wry sense of humour. With this volume, once again Barnes found himself on the short list for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The year 2000 saw the publication of Love, etc., a sequel to Talking it Over, (1991). In 2002 Julian Barnes translated the largely forgotten Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, introducing this important work to an English readership for the first time. That same year, Barnes, a confirmed Francophile, released another collection of essays on French culture entitled Something to Declare: French Essays, focusing on such diverse topics as the Tour de France, French gastronomy, and Gustav Flaubert. The Pendant in the Kitchen is a compendium of articles previously published in The Guardian in 2003. This was followed in 2004 with the publication of The Lemon Table, a collection of stories relating to the themes of death and old age. In 2005, Julian Barnes was for the third time short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, this time for Arthur & George, a fictionalised account of the true story of a solicitor accused of brutally slaughtering cattle in the English countryside, saved from false accusations by the intervention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In 2008 Julian Barnes published a memoir meditating on life and its unavoidable end, titled Nothing to be Frightened Of. This book would make it to the New York Times Book Review list as one of the 10 Best Books of 2008. In 2011, Pusle, a collection of short stories in which Barnes explores themes of the body, of love and sex, of illness and death, as well as of connections and conversations came out with great anticipation.
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