Julian Barnes Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born in the English Midlands city of Leicester just after World War II to parents who taught French, Julian Patrick Barnes studied French at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated with honors in 1968 with a degree in modern languages. After he left Oxford, his abiding interest in words and language led him to a position as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement. In 1972 Barnes became a freelance writer, preferring that parlous profession to the law. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, he wrote reviews for The Times Literary Supplement and was contributing editor to the New Review, assistant literary editor of the New Statesman, and deputy literary editor of the Sunday Times of London. For a decade he served as a television critic, most notably for the London Observer; his commentary was noted for being witty, irreverent, and provocative.

Influenced by the French writer Gustave Flaubert, particularly his concern for form, style, and objectivity, Barnes produced serious novels that continued to exhibit his fascination with language and literary experiments, in contrast with the more traditional narrative approach and narrow subject matter of many twentieth century English novelists. Under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, Barnes also published a number of detective novels, less experimental in style, although the major protagonist of these books is gay.

By the...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Julian Patrick Barnes was born in Leicester, England, on January 19, 1946, and educated at the City of London School. He graduated with honors from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1968, and for the next four years was a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement. In 1977, he began reviewing for a number of British periodicals and between 1979 and 1986 was a television critic for The Observer. He has been a visiting professor at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has also written a number of popular thrillers under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

By the time his third book was published, Julian Patrick Barnes had been hailed by critics as one of the most accomplished novelists in years. Barnes was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with honors in 1968. From 1969 to 1972, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement, and in 1977 he began working as a reviewer and literary editor for various British journals. Between 1979 and 1986, he was a television critic, and he ultimately joined the London Observer; in the 1990’s, he also began writing for The New Yorker.{$S[A]Kavanagh, Dan;Barnes, Julian}

In 1980, Barnes published his first novel, Metroland, a first-person account of the maturation of Christopher Lloyd, who rebels against his bourgeois upbringing and enjoys a bohemian fling in Paris before settling down to middle-class domesticity back home. The novel made an immediate impression and won the Somerset Maugham Award. Critics admired the work’s remarkably assured tone, its well-turned phrases, and its lively reworking of the traditional apprenticeship story. Two years later, Before She Met Me attracted even more favorable notice. This novel is a witty but chilling depiction of an intelligent man destroyed by obsessive jealousy: Graham Hendrick, a mild-mannered history teacher, happily remarried after a painful divorce, finds himself unable to stop brooding over the men in his new wife’s past. The novel depicts both the comic entanglement of life with art—a novelist friend, for example, complicates Graham’s search for truth by his habit of putting real people into his fiction—and the tragic entanglement of reason with emotion in the human psyche. Although some critics complained of a lack of credibility in characterization, most agreed on the disturbing power of Barnes’s portrayal of an individual’s disintegration.

Barnes’s first outstanding success came in 1984 with Flaubert’s Parrot, which was nominated for the prestigious Booker-McConnell Prize and won many literary awards in England and in France. The novel is a tour de force reminiscent, in its ingenious...

(The entire section is 905 words.)