Julian Barnes on literature and writing

Julian Barnes finally has a Man Booker (and to judge from the picture, quite a nice apartment as well). Interviews with him all around, but maybe most immediately useful to other writers, The Telegraph collected several of Barnes’ comments on literature. My favorite, at the moment:

“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t. I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own.”



I Bought JB’s ‘History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters’ a fortnight ago. Can’t say as I’m over enamoured of it. It’s different from what I’m used to. I think I’ll get Flaubert’s Parrot, and see what’s what.
I haven’t finished HOTWI10 ½W yet, by the way, but nothing’s pulling me back to it.

I had to read that book for my degree. It was one of the better ones I had to read. It must be. At least I can remember reading it.

Stacey, Hiya,
I take it you mean 10 ½W, not F’s Parrot.
I will finish 10 ½W, it is after all a book of short stories, so it’s not demanding metric tonnes of your time, at any one go, is it?
Take care

“The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature: only then can he see clearly.” Ha, lovely.

“(Literature is) a process of producing grand, beautiful, well-ordered lies that tell more truth than any assemblage of facts. Beyond that, literature is many things, such as delight in, and play with, language; also, a curiously intimate way of communicating with people whom you will never meet." Reminded me of the Big Fish quote, “All of the facts, none of the flavor”.

And another one I like, of his, “When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life’s subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic.