Julian Barnes: Writing History
Monday, November 21, 2011 - 02:47 PM
Last month Julian Barnes received the prestigious Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending. It’s about a middle-aged man who must reconsider events from his youth upon the death of a boyhood acquaintance. When he discovers a past that clashes with his memories, he must reconceive both his history and identity. At 163 pages, the book has been recognized for its compact simplicity, intensity, and depth.
In 2006, Kurt Andersen interviewed Barnes as part of the National Book Foundation's "Eat, Drink & Be Literary" series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Barnes had just published a very different kind of historical exploration, Arthur & George (also shortlisted for the Booker Prize that year).
Barnes began the event with a reading from Arthur & George, a historical fiction about Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (2:45-20:45 in the audio below). But in the conversation that followed, he told Kurt, "In a funny way, I don't consider it a historical novel. I think with a historical novel set at that time you would imagine the reader in a deep-buttoned late-Victorian tub chair by a blazing log-fire. I want the reader to feel that they are sitting in an uncomfortable modern chair with someone's walkman blaring in their ear."
Listen to the full 70-minute recording here: