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Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes

Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008)

by Julian Barnes

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Tedious brief. Plenty of anecdotes worth reading the first time they are mentioned, but not subsequently. Most of the book is wondering digression, repetition without elaboration, and inexpert/inaccurate speculation. Could have been wonderful if it had more seriousness/focus/heart/editing. A disappointment. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
This book is a mediation on mortality. Is is not to be feared? Is it a nothingness, which we face with dread? Like Barnes, I'm an agnostic, without either the certainty of belief or the certainty of unbelief. Like Pope's Essay on Man: "In doubt to act or rest/In doubt to judge himself a god, or beast." If you can stand to hang between, this book is for you. ( )
  vlodko62 | Dec 29, 2018 |
Perfect, absolutely perfect! Barnes analyses death from many angles using his family members, famous writers and composers as examples. It's sad, but also very witty and hilarious. I've laughed several times and Barnes is sometimes so relatable. And I have so many quotes. This book (my sixth by Barnes) is now among my favorite three books of his, after "Sense of and Ending" and "History of the World". ( )
  aljosa95 | Mar 27, 2018 |
I loved Julian Barnes's recent novel, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING, so thought I'd try his semi-autobiographical meditation on death and dying, NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF. In it he talks of his progression from being a young atheist to an older, if not wiser, agnostic. There is much in here about his parents, who were both teachers of French. His older brother Jonathan, a philosopher, is also in here, as well as frequent references and quotes from an early ancestor, Jules Renard, who, Proust-like, kept a years-long journal.

I found this book to be entertaining, in a rather black-humor sense. It IS about death, after all. But Barnes displays a robust sense of humor about it all, and I especially enjoyed the notes from that long ago ancestor, Renard. Here is one -

"It is when faced with death that we turn most bookish." Hmm ... But I've ALWAYS been 'bookish.' Will I become even more so when death approaches?

Here's a quote from Barnes's mother about her two sons, the philosopher and the author -

"One of my sons writes books I can read but can't understand, and the other writes books I can understand but can't read." (She considered many of Julian's books to be 'filthy.')

And there was Faulkner's comment that "a writer's obituary should read: 'He wrote books, then he died.'" Again, Hmm ... Not a bad description, actually.

Or there's this comment - pretty relevant to today's Trump times, actually - about the "papal states" in the 1840s -

"Education was so discouraged that only two percent of the population could read; priests and the secret police ran everything; 'thinkers' of any kind were held a dangerous class ..."

Barnes also speculates about a hypothetical operation that could take away the fear of death -

"... the operation will also take away your desire to write, but many of your colleagues have opted for this treatment and found it most beneficial. Nor has society at large complained about there being fewer writers."

Chuckles. And there are many such humorous snippets sprinkled throughout the book. But, I have to admit that, finally, one can handle only so much talk of death and dying, despite the witticisms. Eventually it just became a trifle tedious, and I figured out that this whole thing really wasn't going anywhere significant. So I gave it up after nearly two hundred pages, skipped ahead to THE END, which was just that. I enjoyed NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF, but only up to a point. Recommended, but with a warning that it does wear thin eventually.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Dec 25, 2017 |
Hoe luchtig en badinerend kan je zijn over de dood? Fatalistisch en bedroefd, ja, dat kunnen we ons uiteraard voorstellen. Of misschien opstandig en wanhopig? Of net andersom: vol vertrouwen. En tenslotte cynisch en sarcastisch, vooruit, dat ook nog. Julian Barnes doorloopt in dit boek ongeveer al deze emoties en houdingen. Niet als een systematische uiteenzetting van hoe anderen denken over de dood, over wat religies ons zeggen, of wat de wetenschap ons leert. Of liever: dat ook wel. Maar toch in de eerste plaats over hoe hij zelf worstelt met het vooruitzicht van het einde, en dan vooral met het emotioneel bevatten van de oneindige eeuwigheid die zich voorbij die dood bevindt. Want daar maakt Barnes geen geheim van: hij heeft echt de daver op het lijf van zijn eigen sterfelijkheid.
Gelukkig voor ons verlamt die “daver” hem niet, integendeel. Gedurende 250 pagina’s weet hij onze aandacht gaande te houden met voortdurende, pertinente vragen over het leven, het menszijn, de vrije wil, en de altijd voorlopige antwoorden op die vragen. En zoals we van Barnes gewend zijn doet hij dat met verve en stijl. Het regent citaten en verwijzingen, vooral van en naar de door hem zo geliefde 19de eeuwse Franse auteurs: Flaubert, de Goncourt, Jules Renard. Maar daar blijft het niet bij: hij betrekt ook zijn vrienden, zijn eigen ouders en vooral zijn oudere broer-filosoof bij zijn kronkelweg, met soms gênant intieme details. Ik durf het bijna niet toegeven, maar ik heb echt genoten van dit boek over de dood, al leidt het eigenlijk nergens toe. Maar ik kan het elke lezer aanbevelen: je hebt niets te vrezen. ( )
  bookomaniac | Nov 9, 2017 |
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I don't believe in God, but I miss Him.
This is not, by the way, "my autobiography." Nor am I "in search of my parents." . . . Part of what I'm doing -- which may seem unnecessary -- is trying to work out how dead they are. My father died in 1992, my mother in 1997. (pp. 35-6)

Perhaps I should warn you (especially if you are a philosopher, theologian, or biologist) that some of this book will strike you as amateur, do-it-yourself stuff. But then we are all amateurs in and of our own lives. . . . I should also warn you that there are going to be a lot of writers in this book. Most of them are dead, and quite a few of them French. (p. 39)
...perhaps a sense of death is like a sense of humour. We all think the one we've got - or haven't got - is just about right, and appropriate to the proper understanding of life. It's everyone else who's out of step.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307269639, Hardcover)

Two years after the best-selling Arthur & George, Julian Barnes gives us a memoir on mortality that touches on faith and science and family as well as a rich array of exemplary figures who over the centuries have confronted the same questions he now poses about the most basic fact of life: its inevitable extinction.

If the fear of death is “the most rational thing in the world,” how does one contend with it? An atheist at twenty, an agnostic at sixty, Barnes looks into the various arguments for and against and with God, and at the bloodline whose archivist, following his parents’ death, he has become—another realm of mystery, wherein a drawer of mementos and his own memories (not to mention those of his philosopher brother) often fail to connect. There are other ancestors, too: the writers—“most of them dead, and quite a few of them French”—who are his daily companions, supplemented by composers and theologians and scientists whose similar explorations are woven into this account with an exhilarating breadth of intellect and felicity of spirit.

Deadly serious, masterfully playful, and surprisingly hilarious, Nothing to Be Frightened Of is a riveting display of how this supremely gifted writer goes about his business and a highly personal tour of the human condition and what might follow the final diagnosis.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:03 -0400)

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"I don't believe in God, but I miss him." So begins this book, which is a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the writer Jules Renard. Barnes also draws poignant portraits of the last days of his parents, recalled with great detail, affection and exasperation. Other examples he takes up include writers, "most of them dead and quite a few of them French," as well as some composers, for good measure. Although he cautions us that "this is not my autobiography," the book nonetheless reveals much about Barnes the man and the novelist: how he thinks and how he writes and how he lives. At once deadly serious and dazzlingly playful, this is a wise, funny and constantly surprising tour of the human condition.--From publisher description.

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