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Oliver’s Riffs

Charles Nicholl

25 July 1991
Talking It Over 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 288 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 224 03157 0
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... JulianBarnes is a writer of rare intelligence. He catches the detail of contemporary life with an uncanny, forensic skill. His style is a model of cool and precision. He is often very funny, and if his humour ...
4 January 1996
Cross Channel 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 211 pp., £13.99, January 1996, 0 224 04301 3
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... objection to Freud and his Interpretation of Dreams that the procedure might be impressive, but why did interpretation have to end just there, what was to stop it going on indefinitely? On JulianBarnes, who is so addicted to the business or game of interpretations, the question does not seem to weigh so heavily. We perhaps misunderstand Barnes if we take him to be profoundly worried by ...

Stowaway Woodworm

Frank Kermode

22 June 1989
A History of the World in 10½ Chapters 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 320 pp., £10.95, June 1989, 0 224 02669 0
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... were largely unaware that ‘there is no limit’ to what the novelist ‘may attempt as an executant – no limit to his possible experiments, efforts, discoveries, successes’. A new novel by JulianBarnes is a reminder that – up to a point, anyway – the situation has changed. Without being defiantly weird or consciously trying to alter the future, Barnes is clearly no slave to limit; he ...

Real Questions

Ian Hamilton

6 November 1986
Staring at the Sun 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 195 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02414 0
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... JulianBarnes once trained to be a barrister and he’s been asking questions ever since – questions, mostly, about questions. In Before she met me, the hero of the book actually suffered from interrogation ...

‘Oh no Oh No OH NO’

Thomas Jones: Julian Barnes

17 February 2011
Pulse 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 228 pp., £16.99, January 2011, 978 0 224 09108 4
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Nothing to Be Frightened Of 
by Julian Barnes.
Vintage, 250 pp., £8.99, March 2009, 978 0 09 952374 1
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... The 21-year-old narrator of JulianBarnes’s first novel, Metroland (1980), suggests that ‘everyone has a perfect age to which they aspire, and they’re only truly at ease with themselves when they get there. I suppose with most people ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: Burning Letters

7 July 1988
... upon, being made to realise that writing, alas, isn’t just a seamless embrace between writer and reader. The other day, for instance, I turned up the following harmless statement about myself: Barnes, Julian 1946- JulianBarnes intends to keep his manuscripts and typescripts in his own possession for the foreseeable future [information supplied by the author, March 1987]. I thought that ...

Tell us about it

Alex Clark: Julian Barnes

24 August 2000
Love, etc 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 250 pp., £15.99, August 2000, 0 224 06109 7
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... Ironies accumulate in the work of JulianBarnes, like – well, perhaps we’d better not attempt to say what they are like, since Love, etc contains several admonitions on the dangers of metaphor, of likening one thing to another, and on the ...

Twinkly

Theo Tait: Beyond the Barnes​ persona

1 September 2005
Arthur & George 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 360 pp., £17.99, July 2005, 0 224 07703 1
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... According to Flaubert’s famous rule, ‘an author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.’ For most of his career, the celebrated Flaubertian JulianBarnes has occupied the opposite end of the spectrum: less a transcendent creator than a garrulous master of ceremonies, unwilling or unable to prevent himself interrupting the proceedings. As John Bayley ...

From a Summer to an Autumn

Michael Wood: Julian Barnes

9 May 2013
Levels of Life 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 118 pp., £10.99, April 2013, 978 0 224 09815 1
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... JulianBarnes invites us to visit what he calls a ‘tropic of grief’ that is wilder and bleaker than anything in the pages of Lévi-Strauss’s great memoir. But Barnes does not refuse the word ‘sad’, because, he suggests, one of the first things we should understand about grief is its banality, its need of ordinary old words that may seem flat but will not seem ...

The Pouncer

Julian Barnes

3 March 1983
The Mystery of Georges Simenon 
by Fenton Bresler.
Heinemann, 259 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 434 98033 1
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... 21 autobiographies (only two of which have been translated into English). Though he picks up the occasional forensic solecism in the Maigret books, he tends to rely for criticism on the judgments of Julian Symons and Maurice Richardson. This is probably wise – Mr Bresler arouses little confidence in his own literary footing. When, for instance, he quotes Simenon’s dictum about style – ‘If it ...
1 October 1998
England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... regarding. England, England, in other words, is a book which not only poses questions about integrity and authenticity, but is itself something of a poser. This is, I’m sure, entirely by design: JulianBarnes is a writer who knows how to spot a fake. Last year, on 15 September, for example, in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana, the New Yorker ran a series of articles in praise of the ...

Stupidly English

Michael Wood: Julian Barnes

22 September 2011
The Sense of an Ending 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 150 pp., £12.99, July 2011, 978 0 224 09415 3
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... JulianBarnes specialises in Englishness the way some doctors specialise in broken bones or damaged nerves. Like many actual English people, he’s not a chronic sufferer from the complaint, which in any case is a ...
11 February 1993
The Porcupine 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 138 pp., £9.99, November 1992, 0 224 03618 1
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... a setting for a comedy or a thriller – two genres which tend to lionise the Englishman abroad, and to subtly belittle the natives. There are no English characters in The Porcupine, thank goodness. JulianBarnes’s seventh novel is a brief but wholly serious example of political fiction, and, if I had to choose an epigraph for it, it would come from Arthur Koestler rather than Bram Stoker. A soberly ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: On the Booker

12 November 1987
... you have missed; then you search for your jury to thank them. My publisher and I tentatively entered a large dining-room where a dozen literati were all well into their lunch. C’est Monsieur Barnes, she announced, but not a single fork paused on its way to a single mouth. Oh dear, I thought, I was obviously some terrible compromise candidate; I shall be the Keri Hulme of the Prix Médicis. But ...

Dear Mole

Julian Barnes

23 January 1986
Flaubert and Turgenev: A Friendship in Letters 
translated by Barbara Beaumont.
Athlone, 197 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 485 11277 9
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... Flaubert’s Correspondence (which Gide kept at his bedside for five years in place of the Bible, and which hoisted even Sartre into grudging admiration) is one of the great documents of French literature: so it’s surprising how much of it isn’t there. The novelist made letter-burning pacts with his two longest-serving male friends, Maxime Du Camp and Louis Bouilhet, who with an irritating rectitude ...

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