Julian Barnes has published over a dozen books, amongst them the novels Metroland, Before She Met Me, Flaubert's Parrot, Staring at the Sun, A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters, Talking It Over, The Porcupine, England, England and Love, etc; short stories, including Cross Channel and The Lemon Table; and the collections of essays, Letters from London and Something to Declare. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Medicis (for Flaubert's Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking It Over ). In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg. He lives in London.
Admirers of Julian Barnes ( Flaubert's Parrot ; Staring at the Sun ) are accustomed to thoroughly unorthodox approaches to the novel, and his latest, while brilliantly entertaining, certainly strains the limits of the genre. There are many leitmotifs that link the extraordinary episodes: a fascination with Noah's Ark and Mount Ararat, with the perils of the sea, with woodworm and with the nature of love. Add a dash of art history, a good bit of philosophy, an offbeat vision of the Hereafter, plus Barnes's blend of storytelling skills and high intelligence, and the combination must be the thinking person's novel of the season. Whether he is offering a decidedly cynical view of the Ark, imitating 15th-century French religious and legal rhetoric or playing with a goofy U.S. astronaut or a spoiled British movie actor on location in darkest Venezuela, he seems to have perfect pitch. As for the art history, it is a masterly piece of exposition based on Gericault's famous painting The Raft of the Medusa --which the reader gets as a full-color insert. The so-called half chapter is a rueful dissertation on the fragilities of human love. A History may be ultimately undefinable, but it is thoughtful, often funny and never less than fascinating. (Oct . )
A revisionist view of Noah's Ark, told by the stowaway woodworm. A chilling account of terrorists hijacking a cruise ship. A court case in 16th-century France in which the woodworm stand accused. A desperate woman's attempt to escape radioactive fallout on a raft. An acute analysis of Gericault's ``Scene of Shipwreck.'' The search of a 19th-century Englishwoman and of a contemporary American astronaut for Noah's Ark. An actor's increasingly desperate letters to his silent lover. A thoughtful meditation on the novelist's responsibility regarding love. These and other stories make up Barnes's witty and sometimes acerbic retelling of the history of the world. The stories are connected, if only tangentially, which is precisely Barnes's point: historians may tell us that ``there was a pattern,'' but history is ``just voices echoing in the dark; . . . strange links, impertinent connections.'' Fascinating reading from the author of Flaubert's Parrot , but not for those wanting conventional plot.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''