Perhaps we wouldn’t have been so hard on Robson if it hadn’t been for one central, unshiftable fact: Robson was our age, he was in our terms unexceptional, and yet he had not only conspired to find a girlfriend but also, incontestably, to have sex with her. Fucking bastard!
Julian Barnes, The End of TimesBetween the philosophically self evident events of Eros and Thanatos is a story. Julian Barnes’ latest novel The Sense of an Ending pokes serious and fun at the self evidence of our philosophically comical lives, as well as the looming retrospective that Thanatos evokes, and our ever-consuming obsession with Eros- sought, avoided, or remorsed.
I gave her the short version of the short version, leaving out the names of the relevant philosophers. (56)
Barnes unfolds the story as a story. The first third of the book is the life of Tony as explained by Tony; most of which concentrates on his school days when saying things like “philosophically self evident” comes easily to the earnestly cynical pedant of the over-schooled English lad. But that is not the story, it is merely a novella of the life, with the occasional arch comment about whether or not his life or any other makes a good novel.
Does character develop over time? In novels, of course it does: otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. (113)
The story is about life as a history. How things are remembered, or suddenly internally or externally recalled. Finding the reasons for a single event, but aware that the history of the teller matters as much as all the predicating details that led to the actual event.
But we learn something else: that the brain doesn’t like being typecast. Just when you think everything is a matter of decrease, of subtraction and division, your brain, your memory, may surprise you. (122)
Barnes’ prose are terse, witty, and slyly moving. The End of Times is funny but also left me thinking about the sad and all too frequent smothered life.
I have often wondered about the novelistic qualities of my own life, I suppose you have to get to end to see clearly the chapters or parts, ( most lives don’t develop beyond the basic part I of childhood and part II of adulthood).
“Are there any Stefan Zweig titles you would particularly recommend?” (141)
Stefan Zweig – Well, surly that’s a mention far and away enough to recommend this book. Zweig’s books are often tragic. Even so, I think we should live our lives as novels. Why end up as some banal biography of the sort that lines the shelves in a school library? If only for the simply reason that a novel is always written for a purpose, better to be active – write it. Live it.