A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

by Julian Barnes
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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 513

Some of the best quotes from the novel are in the chapter called "Parenthesis." Here are some thought-provoking quotes from the half chapter in A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.

Quote 1

"I love you." For a start, we'd better put these words on a high shelf;...

(The entire section contains 513 words.)

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Some of the best quotes from the novel are in the chapter called "Parenthesis." Here are some thought-provoking quotes from the half chapter in A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.

Quote 1

"I love you." For a start, we'd better put these words on a high shelf; in a square box behind glass which we have to break with our elbow; in a bank. We shouldn't leave them lying around the house like a tube of vitamin C. If the words come too easily to hand, we'll use them without thought; we won't be able to resist. Oh, we say we won't, but we will. We'll get drunk, or lonely, or—likeliest of all—plain damn hopeful, and there are the words gone, used up, grubbied. We think we might be in love and we're trying out the words to see if they're appropriate? How can we know what we think till we hear what we say? Come off it; that won't wash. These are grand words; we must make sure we deserve them. Listen to them again: "I love you."

In the half chapter, "Parenthesis," the narrator, also called Julian Barnes, discusses the overuse of the words "I love you" and how they have become too easy to say to one another. They have become commonplace. The narrator believes that we should carefully consider them before we say them to someone, and we should also consider if we deserve to hear them from another.

Quote 2

The history of the world? Just voices echoing in the dark; images that burn for a few centuries and then fade; stories, old stories that sometimes seem to overlap; strange links, impertinent connections. We lie here in our hospital bed of the present (what nice clean sheets we get nowadays) with a bubble of daily news drip-fed into our arm. We think we know who we are, though we don't quite know why we're here, or how long we shall be forced to stay. And while we fret and write in bandaged uncertainty—are we a voluntary patient?—we fabulate. We make up a story to cover the facts we don't know or can't accept; we keep a few true facts and spin a new story round them. Our panic and our pain are only eased by soothing fabulation; we call it history.
This quote, also from the half chapter, discusses how history consists of old stories that will eventually fade away after a few centuries. It talks about how humans don't understand why we are alive and how long we will remain so. It also discusses how history only sticks to some of the facts and creates a new version of the truth to hide the things that are hard to accept or the things that are unclear.

Quote 3
History isn't what happened, history is just what historians tell us.
Going along with the previous quote, the narrator also tells us that the history we are taught isn't what actually happened; it is just what we are told happened—a story created using some known facts.
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