Julian Barnes Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his fiction writing, Julian Barnes has served as a journalist and columnist for several British newspapers and magazines. He has published numerous essays, book reviews, short-story collections, and autobiographical works.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Julian Barnes is one of a number of British writers born after World War II who gravitated toward London and its literary scene. Reacting to the certainties and assumptions of the previous generation, these writers have often resorted to irony and comedy in viewing the contemporary world. Some have experimented with the form of the traditional novel. Barnes’s early novels arenarrative and chronological in approach, but his fifth book, Flaubert’s Parrot, combines fact and fiction, novel and history, biography and literary criticism. For that work he was nominated for Great Britain’s most prestigious literary award, the Booker Prize, and was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He has also won literary prizes in Italy, France, Austria, and elsewhere, and he received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986.

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Julian Barnes is the author of several novels, including Metroland (1980), Before She Met Me (1982), Flaubert’s Parrot (1984), Staring at the Sun (1986), A History of the World in 10½Chapters (1989), Talking It Over (1991), The Porcupine (1992), and England, England (1998). He has also published a collection of essays, Letters from London (1995).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Julian Barnes’s first novel, Metroland, won the Somerset Maugham Award, and his third novel, Flaubert’s Parrot, was nominated for a Booker McConnell Prize and won both the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the Prix Médicis. Barnes won an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in 1986 and was awarded the Prix Gutembourg in 1987, the Premio Grinzane Carour in 1988, and the Shakespeare Prize in 1993. He has also been named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Julian Barnes wants readers to become involved with his characters. What methods does he use to break down the gap between readers and the book they are reading?

Barnes attempts to maintain authorial distance in his works. What is his reason for doing this?

Support the claim that Barnes is a postmodernist with his heart in the nineteenth century.

What effect does Barnes aim to achieve in his nontraditional approach to fiction?

Barnes is an intellectual, a novelist of ideas. In what ways do his books show his proclivity toward dealing with real problems?

Barnes deals with opposites, with the two sides to every story. What impact does he hope this duality will have on his readers? What response is he hoping for?


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Carey, John. “Land of Make-Believe.” The Sunday [London] Times, August 23, 1998. Carey, a leading British academic and a literary critic, discusses England, England as an unusual combination of the comic and the serious, a philosophical novel that posits important questions about reality.

Guignery, Vanessa. The Fiction of Julian Barnes. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Provides an excellent assessment of Barnes’s literary works, including his novels, and presents a compilation of the interpretation of Barnes’s works by other critics.

Higdon, David Leon. “’Unconfessed Confessions’: The Narrators of Graham Swift and Julian Barnes.” In The British and Irish Novel Since 1960, edited by James Acheson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Argues that the fiction of Swift and Barnes defines what is meant by British postmodernism. Asserts that the works of the two authors share themes of estrangement, obsession, and the power of the past.

Locke, Richard. “Flood of Forms.” The New Republic 201 (December 4, 1989): 40-43. Locke, a professor of comparative literature, places Barnes’s interest in form and style in the context of modern literature, beginning with Gustave Flaubert. Summarizes all of Barnes’s novels, focusing particularly on A History of the World in 10¡ Chapters.

Mosely, Merritt. Understanding Julian Barnes. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. Provides a general introduction to Barnes’s life and work, briefly discussing his novels, stories, and nonfiction. Includes a bibliography of criticism of Barnes’s fiction.

Pateman, Matthew. Julian Barnes. Tavistock, England: Northcote House, 2002. Presents an insightful scholarly interpretation of Barnes’s novels through Love, etc.

Rubinson, Gregory J. The Fiction of Rushdie, Barnes, Winterson, and Carter: Breaking Cultural and Literary Boundaries in the Work of Four Postmodernists. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2005. Examines how Barnes and three other important postmodern authors—Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson, and Angela Carter—use literary devices to challenge culturally accepted ideas about such subjects as race and gender. Include index.

Stout, Mira. “Chameleon Novelist.” The New York Times Magazine, November 22, 1992. Offers a brief biographical sketch, covering Barnes’s childhood, his circle of friends, and his marriage to agent Patricia Kavanagh, and then discusses Barnes’s experiments with various narrative forms and his common themes of obsession, dislocation, death, art, and religion.