Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|
Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes (1946-Present) is an English novelist and journalist. Best known for his witty and intellectual novels, Barnes has enjoyed commercial and critical success for almost forty years. Barnes' work often deals with identity, memory, and historical themes. His most famous work is the postmodern novel Flaubert's Parrot (1984).

Julian Barnes: Biography

Here is a look at the life of English novelist Julian Barnes.

Early life and education

Julian Barnes was born on January 19, 1946, in Leicester, England. His parents taught French, and Julian was raised in a comfortable middle-class home. The Barnes family moved to the suburban area of Northwood outside of London when Julian was a child. This quiet, sleepy setting would serve as the setting for his debut novel Metroland (1980).

Julian Barnes is the brother of widely published philosophy scholar Jonathan Barnes.

At age 10, Barnes earned a scholarship to the City of London School, after which he entered Oxford University to study Modern Languages. During his time as a student, Barnes spent a summer teaching in France and developed a deep love for the country. After graduating in 1968, he spent the next three years working as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary.

Julian Barnes, Dictionary, StudySmarterFig. 1 - As one of the only men on the Oxford Dictionary team, Barnes often found himself assigned to "rude words and sports words."1

Barnes moved to London in 1972 and passed the bar exam, qualifying as a lawyer; however, he had also developed a growing interest in writing. Several of his articles appeared in the illustrious Times Literary Supplement. Barnes spent the next few years publishing articles on a wide range of subject matters, from reviews of television shows to a restaurant column. He became contributing editor at New Review under the pseudonym "Edward Pygge" before gaining the position of literary editor at The New Statesman.

How did Barnes' tenure as a journalist and columnist impact his writing style?

Early success and personal life

In 1979, Barnes married the powerful literary agent Pat Kavanagh and published his debut novel Metroland the following year. The story of a young man from the London suburbs who travels to Paris drew heavily from Barnes' experiences. The book was an instant success and helped to establish Barnes as an important new voice in the British literary scene.

When Julian Barnes married Pat Kavanagh, the pair became a power couple on the British literary scene. Pat was one of the leading agents at the Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD) literary agency, representing some of the world's most influential writers. Her clients included John Irving (1943-Present)and Joanna Trollope (1943-Present).

When Barnes created the character Duffy, he published a series of detective novels under the pseudonym "Dan Kavanagh," a reference to his wife. He produced four books under the pseudonym throughout the 1980s.

The marriage was placed under tremendous stress when Pat had an affair with Jeanette Winterson (1959-Present), the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), during the early 1980s. The couple was able to work through the infidelity and enjoyed many happy years together.

In 2008, Pat was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died 37 days later. The loss and subsequent grief had a devastating impact on Barnes. He explored his grief and loss in the essay collection Levels of Life (2013).

His next book, Before She Met Me (1982), deals with a jealous historian trying to come to terms with his wife's previous relationships. Barnes also published a collection of detective novels under the pseudonym "Dan Kavanagh." Barnes enjoyed mainstream success with his 1984 novel Flaubert's Parrot. This experimental work deals with a man's obsession with a French novelist and explores the nature of truth and history.

How does Julian Barnes explore the idea of objective truth in novels like Flaubert's Parrot?

In 1986 Barnes became a regular contributor for The New Yorker with his "Letter from London" column that ran for five years. He continued to use his novels to experiment with style and question ideas of narrative and truth. A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989) uses a nonlinear storyline to investigate the meaning of knowledge and the unreliability of commonly held beliefs.

Barnes' close affinity for France served as the basis for a short story collection entitled Cross Channel (1996), which explores the relationship between England and France. In 1998 he published England, England, which took a humorous and bleak look at the nation's future.


Julian Barnes, Alphonse Daudet, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Barnes' translation of Daudet's In the Land of Pain (1930) was published in 2002.

Later Career

Throughout his career, Barnes has worked on the translations of famous authors, including the French novelist and diarist Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897). Barnes explored the challenges and rewards of translation in the 2010 essay "Writer's Writer and Writer's Writer's Writer."

Barnes has always had a deep appreciation of French culture. In his 2002 essay collection Something to Declare, he explores all aspects of French culture, from classic novels to contemporary pop singers.

In his later career, Barnes continues to experiment with historical fiction and ideas of memory. He is a critic of the British government's approach to funding the arts and public libraries and has campaigned for the right to assisted suicide. Barnes lives in North London.

Julian Barnes: Books

Julian Barnes has published 14 novels, three short story collections, and many non-fiction articles and essays. Here is a look at his most famous books.

Flaubert's Parrot (1984)

Geoffrey Braithwaite, a recently widowed English doctor, takes a trip to France on a tour of sites related to the novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880). When Geoffrey discovers two museums, both claiming to have the parrot that inspired one of Flaubert's works, he starts investigating the writer's life and becomes obsessed with finding which one is the actual parrot.

Flaubert's Parrot is a highly experimental novel that mixes elements of fiction with non-fiction styles. Large sections of the book are written in the style of historical essays, and literary criticism as Barnes blurs the line between traditional storytelling and academic writing. The book uses style and technique to question the idea that there can ever be one fundamental truth.

England, England (1998)

A young woman is hired by a self-involved business tycoon, Sir Jack Pitman, to help him with a lavish project. Pitman wants to create a theme park version of England on the Isle of Wright. The tacky project proves to be a huge success and attracts tourists from all over the world. When the financial success allows the island to split off and become "New England," the real England is left to wither and die.

In England, England, Barnes uses biting satire and wit to explore the idea of national identity. The novel explores the problems of history and how the concept of a shared narrative can result in xenophobia.

Julian Barnes: Writing Style and Technique

Julian Barnes has a highly experimental writing style that challenges many of the classic techniques of novel writing. As a writer, Barnes is closely associated with the postmodernist movement.

Postmodernism is a literary form that rejects many traditional forms of storytelling and characterization in favor of experimental techniques. Postmodern works often feature nonlinear story structures and unreliable narrators and focus on thematic or character development over the plot.

Many of Barnes' works feature a nonlinear story structure as the plot jumps back and forth in time and even moves through different periods. He often uses unreliable narrators who blur the line between fact and fiction. Another critical element of postmodernism that appears throughout Barnes' work is the idea truth is subjective. Many of Barnes' characters struggle to uncover some sense of truth or reality.

Barnes often deals with ideas of history and identity, particularly in the case of his home country. Many of his works explore the idea that national identity and historical myths are harmful and reductive. He often uses humor and wit to poke fun at important institutions and social ideas. Because he combines humor and social commentary, Barnes has drawn comparisons to contemporary British writers like Martin Amis (1949-Present).

Julian Barnes: Awards

Julian Barnes is considered one of the most intellectual and literary gifted British writers. Over a career spanning five decades, Barnes has received many high-profile awards around the world. His debut novel, Metroland, earned him the Somerset Award in 1981.

Flaubert's Parrot was awarded the Geoffrey Memorial Prize (1985) and Prix Médicis (1986). In 1986, the American Academy of Arts and Letters gave Barnes the E.M Forester Award, which includes a $20,000 grant.

Barnes was slightly cynical of the prestigious Man Booker Prize; he once wrote, "the only sensible attitude to the Booker is to treat it as posh bingo." 2 Having been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times (Flaubert's Parrot, England, England, and Arthur & George), Barnes eventually won in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending.

Julian Barnes, Legion d'honneur, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The Legion d'honneur is given to civilians for outstanding contributions in all fields of life.

Barnes has enjoyed a great deal of popularity in his beloved France. His close relationship with the country was recognized in 2017 when the French government awarded Barnes the Légion d'honneur, the nation's highest order merit. In 2021, Barnes received the Jerusalem Prize, recognizing artists whose work encourages individualistic freedoms.

Julian Barnes: Quotes

Julian Barnes' novels often feature witty protagonists with significant existential issues. Here is a look at some meaningful quotes from the works of Julian Barnes.

"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." - The Sense of an Ending (Ch. 1)

A recurring theme in Barnes' work is the uncertainty of memory and history. In Flaubert's Parrot and The Sense of an Ending, characters struggle with the limitations of historical records and personal perspectives. Since so much of an individual's sense of self comes from memory, Barnes argues that the truth is often highly subjective and untrustworthy.

"It was like a country remembering its history: the past was never just the past, it was what made the present able to live with itself." - England, England (Part 1)

The theme of identity plays a significant role in Barnes's darkly comic novel, England, England. The collective memory that forms national identity and character is called into question as Barnes exposes the myths and reality of English history.

Julian Barnes - Key takeaways

  • Julian Barnes is an English novelist who deals with identity, memory, and historical themes.
  • Barnes worked as a journalist and columnist for several British publications before publishing his debut novel, Metroland.
  • His most famous work is the novel Flaubert's Parrot (1984).
  • Barnes' work often contains elements of postmodernism and employs experimental techniques.
  • Julian Barnes has enjoyed commercial and critical success and received many high-profile awards worldwide.

1. Vanessa Guignery, The Fiction of Julian Barnes (Readers' Guides to Essential Criticism), 2006.

2. Julian Barnes, "On the Booker," London Review of Books, Vol. 9 No. 20, 1987.

Frequently Asked Questions about Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending in 2011.

Julian Barnes was born in 1946 and is currently 76 years old. 

Julian Barnes went to the City of London School before attending Oxford University. 

Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England. 

Yes, Julian Barnes is a British author famous for novels like Flaubert's Parrot and England, England

Final Julian Barnes Quiz

Question

In which French city is Flaubert's Parrot set?

Show answer

Answer

Rouen

Show question

Question

The novel's title refers to which Gustave Flaubert story? 

Show answer

Answer

"A Simple Heart"

Show question

Question

Who is the protagonist and narrator of Flaubert's Parrot

Show answer

Answer

Geoffrey Braithwaite 

Show question

Question

The novel's title refers to Flaubert's beloved pet parrot that once saved the writer's life. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

During his research, Geoffrey discovers Flaubert had _____________. 

Show answer

Answer

Conducted an affair

Show question

Question

In the end, Geoffrey is able to uncover which of the parrots was used by Flaubert. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Geoffrey finds out that the truth is often __________. 

Show answer

Answer

Subjective 

Show question

Question

Flaubert's Parrot is an example of which literary form?

Show answer

Answer

Postmodernism 

Show question

Question

In reality, Geoffrey's obsession with Flaubert is a way of coping with his wife's death. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Flaubert's Parrot uses elements of non-fiction like history and literary criticism.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Julian Barnes debut novel was ________. 

Show answer

Answer

Metroland

Show question

Question

What was Julian Barnes's position at the Oxford English Dictionary? 

Show answer

Answer

Lexicographer

Show question

Question

Julian Barnes began his writing career as a ___________. 

Show answer

Answer

Journalist 

Show question

Question

When Julian Barnes was contributing editor at New Review he wrote under the pseudonym ___________. 

Show answer

Answer

Edward Pygge

Show question

Question

Which literary form is Julian Barnes most associated with? 

Show answer

Answer

Postmodernism 

Show question

Question

What was the name of Julian Barnes's column in The New Yorker

Show answer

Answer

“Letter from London”

Show question

Question

Throughout his career, Julian Barnes has enjoyed a close relationship with which European country? 

Show answer

Answer

France

Show question

Question

Julian Barnes' work often explores the untrustworthiness of memory. 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

In the 1980s Julian Barnes published a series of detective novels under the pseudonym ___________. 

Show answer

Answer

Dan Kavanagh 

Show question

Question

Julian Barnes has never won the Man Booker Prize. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

As a child, Martha has fond memories of working on a ___________ with her father. 

Show answer

Answer

Jigsaw puzzle

Show question

Question

On which island does Pitman build the "England, England" theme park? 

Show answer

Answer

Isle of Wight

Show question

Question

The "England, England" theme park strives for accuracy and authenticity. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

The theme park becomes so successful that Pitman is able to attract a __________ to the island. 

Show answer

Answer

Soccer team 

Show question

Question

Martha steps down as CEO for moral reasons. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What is the name of the village Martha settles down in? 

Show answer

Answer

Anglia 

Show question

Question

With the theme park's success, Pitman is lobbying for "England, England" to join the ____________. 

Show answer

Answer

European Union 

Show question

Question

In England, England, Julian Barnes explores the dangers of ignoring the full picture of history. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

An actor pretending to be which historic literary figure upsets the guests? 

Show answer

Answer

Samuel Johnson 

Show question

Question

Which genre best describes England, England

Show answer

Answer

Postmodernism 

Show question

Question

Which symbol appears on the English flag? 

Show answer

Answer

St. George's Cross

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Julian Barnes quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.