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Nothing To Be Frightened Of (2008)

by Julian Barnes(Favorite Author)
3.81 of 5 Votes: 1
0307269639 (ISBN13: 9780307269638)
review 1: There are moments in this book that are so great, if you like philosophical rambling about memory, the search for happiness or fulfillment, mortality, religion or god, and being forgotten, from an atheist/agnostic point of view. Rather than a narrative, linear autobiography, it’s like a collection of essays wound around Barnes’ life.Then there are pages you might just skim through, if long passages about a particular topic or philosopher don’t interest you. Truth: I didn't finish it, but I kept renewing this book from the library, wanting to continue reading, until finally I returned it. I should get a used copy for occasional reading. Or to read when I’m older and/or actually dying. “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him. That’s what I say when the question... more is put.”“Memory is identity…You are what you have done; what you have done is in your memory; what you remember defines who you are; when you forget your life you cease to be, even before your death.”
review 2: Only last week I was walking through Highgate Cemetery in North London, seeking out the grave of George Eliot (and taking in Marx’s now that I was there, and a few others) when I happened to walk by the grave of Julian Barnes’s wife, who I didn’t know was buried there. By coincidence, I had been listening to Barnes reading aloud this volume, which was published just six months before his wife died. How apt that he should have delved into death just months before, how ironic and how sad. ‘Nothing to be frightened of’ is Barnes’s musings on death and dying and the likelihood of an afterlife (or not), as seen in literature and expressed by his own ‘folklore’ as he calls it: his memories of his parents’ deaths, his own fears and thoughts of death, discussions with his brother, with friends. It is part philosophizing and part anecdotal reminiscences, the combination of which strikes a fine balance that never makes it too intellectual or too sentimental or for that matter too morbid. It was mesmerizing and intriguing to listen to Barnes reading this aloud and, I suspect, since he can thus add cadence and feeling to his own words on the printed page, even more poignant than had I merely read it, although I’ve no doubt I would have liked it just as much. But to a large extent the book also hit home because my own parents are dead, which means I’ve had to deal with some of the issues he points out here (although I’ve never woken up in the middle of the night because of an acute death fear, but of course that may come, Barnes being a few decades older than me). And yet, the powerfulness of the book, I think, is precisely because many of his thoughts are somehow universal, shared by any thinking member of the human race.It impacted me for three main reasons, I think: 1. Its intrinsic interesting-ness: death is, after all, a topic none of us can avoid and which we have undoubtedly thought about at one point or another2. Stylistic repetition of sentences, points, views, questions, that are introduced and then, some fifty pages or so later, re-introduced but now with a slightly different focus or backed by the preceding fifty pages and thus seen in a newer, more complex light3. Barnes’ sincerity in elucidating the topic through not only literature, his forte, but also through his personal anecdotes. In fact, when he went off on somewhat more personal tangents (e.g. saying that he would quite like it if people visited his grave when he was dead, or his brief shared moments of togetherness with his father), I was moved and liked him even more.I wouldn’t have expected to like a book about death so much, to be honest, but the potential moroseness of the topic is deftly avoided, mostly, because he sometimes adds a humorous touch. I absolutely loved it when, on occasion, this highly intellectual and intelligent man, who clearly chooses every word with great deliberation, suddenly sprung phrases on me like ‘the fury of the resurrected atheist’ or ‘…some celestial fucking point to it’. Barnes is pretty bloody terrific. less
Reviews (see all)
A fascinating and honest look at death our responses to it.
Beautiful style...humour and wit.
Horribly depressing.
Shaggy, endearing.
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