The View From Here Interview: Julian Barnes
Julian Barnes is the award winning author of over 10 novels. Two of which have picked up Booker nominations and his latest novel Arthur & George was Booker shortlisted in 2005. In the past he has been, amongst other things, the deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times, the London Correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and has appeared on Desert Island Discs . He currently lives in London.
He latest book is Nothing to be Frightened of.
Part 1 of the interview can be read here.
Jane Shilling from The Times says the blurb on the back cover of your book, "makes the book sound like a selection box of sweeties in which the hovering hand of the reader might eschew the unattractive hazelnut cluster of God and Death and light instead upon the strawberry creme of family memoir, artistic celebration or literary reverie." Were you happy with the way the blurb seems to play down that the book is your musings on death and how did your publisher react to the book's topic?
I don't really understand her remark: a book isn't a box of chocolates, and in any case the short blurb seems to me straight and to the point, otherwise I wouldn't have approved it.
My publisher (and other people in the publishing house who read it) reacted as I hoped - as individuals, rather than corporate employees. It seems to be a book on a subject people don't talk much about, even if they privately think about it. 'Now you've given me something new to worry about when I wake up in the middle of the night,' one friend said. My 30-year-old goddaughter told me she'd never thought about being afraid of dying till she read 'Nothing'. Such responses please me, of course. I do think that for many reasons we avoid thinking about death more now than at any other time in our human history. So let's address it.
What was your families reaction to you writing the book?
Well, I have a very restricted family, and most of the people I write about in the book (parents, grandparents) have been dead for quite a while. My brother, who is the main living character, has read it twice and tells me he admires it (he's a philosopher, so always tells the truth); and my nieces are enjoying it. It hasn't cause any ructions, if that's what you're asking.
You say in the book "We begin with a silence, a mystery, an absence, a contradiction," was that the starting point for your previous novel, Arthur & George?
Yes, it was a story which was a newspaper sensation in its day, but then went away for a hundred years. I was intrigued both by why it had gone away, and also by what really happened in the first place. And it had to be a novel because very little had survived about the 'George' character - and nothing of his interior life.
Out of the books you have written, which has been your favorite and why?
It varies. The first because it was the first, the second because it proved I wasn't a one-book author, the third because it was the first to be translated, and so on. If someone mentions a book of mine and says they really didn't like it (not that this happens very often), I instantly think it's the best of all. Writers are a contrary breed.
Tomorrow: Final part in which Julian gives advice to new writers and talks about how the publishing industry has changed since he started writing.
For the Julian Barnes website click here.
For part 3 click here.
For this interview in the printed magazine of TVFH click here.