15 noiembrie 2013

Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters

In his account of the history of the world (first published in 1989), Julian Barnes gives plenty of proof for his creativity, and provides a resistance tour as storyteller.

The book does not look like a novel, and maybe it is not. It starts with Noah and his Ark, seen in an apparently comic perspective. Despite vivid humor, the author addresses most of the common (theological) debates related to the Ark, deconstructs them, and basically reduces them to ashes, in a subtle way that churches cannot easily attack, although they would never admire.

A set of other 9 story add, with the Ark as recurring leitmotiv ("supporting character"), religion as (sometimes almost invisible) common ground, and intrigues that happens in completely different places and times, and with totally different actors. Sometimes, the author becomes a voice by himself, sharing opinions with the reader, and arguing them with facts, and the book seem to turn in an unsystematic investigation about the sense of history, as expression of the collective memory.

Fiction adds to real facts, an unexpected twist occurs in chapter ... (but I better avoid spoilers!), to subtly support author's view on religion, history, life as a whole. (However, I did not find really inspired the metaphor in that chapter).

The presence of fiction, of embroidering the main motives, makes me wonder if this collection of short stories might not be rather labeled as a novel. Beyond such petty distinction, it remains an excellent book, from an excellent writer.

my rating: 8 out of 10.

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