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A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters Paperback – November 27, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Odd, inventive, and wickedly funny, Julian Barnes is known for his intricate and often satirical books on literature and culture. Visit Amazon's Julian Barnes Page.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
"History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second
time as farce." Barnes indirectly explores these and other maxims
about history in this wonderful "novel."
in quotes because this book is not truly a novel in the way some
readers might expect, it is perhaps better characterized as a
collection of prose pieces with interlocking themes and motifs,
similar in a way to John Barth's "Lost in the
Barnes writes: "We make up a story to cover the
facts we don't know or can't accept, we keep a few true facts and spin
a new story round them. Our panic and our pain are only eased by
soothing fabulation; we call it history." Barnes clearly
understands that history, or what we perceive as history, is really
only an interpretation, frought with as much difficulties and
inaccuracies as the interpretion of any text. To illustrate and
explore this idea, Barnes uses an oblique approach: 10 1/2 chapters of
loosely interconnecting stories running from "Genesis" to
Barnes' "Genesis" is the first
chapter, and is basically a comic, revisionist telling of Noah and his
Ark narrated by a woodworm stowed away on the Ark. In Barnes' world,
Noah is a drunken lout who lost and/or ate some of the animals he was
supposed to save (the griffon, the unicorn, etc.). Barnes'
"Revelations" chapter is about a dream of Heaven where all
wishes are fulfilled, and Hell is simply "necessary
propaganda.Read more ›
These collections of stories, and in one case a story within another, are all wonderful when confined within their own borders. They certainly were intended to be elements of a much more transcendent work, and when the reader finishes the parts, and becomes a ruminator of the whole, the effect is brilliant. Mr. Julian Barnes is a new Author for me, fortunately this book is not his debut so much remains to be read, and on his side, I hope, to be written.
A short time ago I read "Ghostwritten", a book that was divided into 9 tales that all had an element of commonality. I thought it was very well done. This work takes the joining of elements that could at times be superficially viewed as disparate, but are all of a singular piece when the entire book is read. The bridges that bring the reader and the elements of the books through the tale can seemingly be obvious. They are also incredibly well disguised. A cursory read through what may seem to be just a satirical romp will no doubt please, but attention paid with more vigor will yield a much more richly crafted work. And the added gift is that even when you think you have taken what the Author has offered, this work lingers, and the more and longer it is thought of, the better it continues to grow. This is a work that can easily be started again immediately after the final page is read.
Some would argue that for a work to be excellent it must be entirely original.Read more ›
If this novel were about a topic other than history--or rather dominated by a topic other than history--I would paste upon it the label of ten and a half short stories (sometimes essays) loosely connected at times by a similar phrase (such as "the clean and the unclean"), or creatures (such as woodworm). But this is a story about the history of the world and its relationship to humanity. The topic dictates the form.
The half chapter, Parenthesis--thought I don't know why it is placed where it is between Chapters 8 and 9--explains the rhyme and reason of Barnes's endeavor. Parenthesis provides some of the most powerful insights and moments in the entire work, while giving (after eight chapters of doubt) an explanation for the choice of form: "History isn't what happened. History is just what historians tell us.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an unexpected and fantastic read. I thought I would be reading a condensed straight version of the history of the world. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Book lover
“Modern” novel? An interplay of different stories, each one self-standing, but distinctly connected, traces man's passage through the history we know. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Magalini Sabina
I have no idea why I grabbed this off my shelf to read, because of the cover? Because so many read it before I got it at the used book store? Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sharon A
Very clever, hilarious first story about Noah and the Ark. The rest all amusing but not quite as clever except the last one ,both sarcastic amd metaphysicalPublished 10 months ago by MARIA MARTA RAGGIO
Loved it. Barnes is a sharp observer of human nature and a good writer. I've given a half dozen copies as gifts.Published 11 months ago by RR in DC
This was utter garbarge---almost totally unintelligable in my estimation. This is one of the very few books I was totally unable to finish because it made no sense to me... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Margery Andrews
I think this is one of the best novels/short story collections written in the last 30 years. It is a pleasurable and deep reflection on human nature, on memory, on love, and on how... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Anton Matytsin