Monday, August 1, 2011

Julian Barnes

He thought of trying to explain something he had recently noticed about himself: that if anyone insulted him, or one of his friends, he didn't really mind . . . Whereas if anyone insulted a novel, a story, a poem he loved, something visceral and volcanic occurred within him.  He wasn't sure what this might mean -- except perhaps that he had got life and art mixed up, back to front, upside down.

From his 2011 short story, "Homage to Hemingway."  Barnes, an English novelist whose best-known book is Flaubert's Parrot (1984), is a Francophile, and his books have been very successful in France -- but we won't hold that against him.

In this story, a novelist talks about the Ernest Hemingway story, "Homage to Switzerland," with three different groups of students at three different times.  The Barnes story resembles the Hemingway story it discusses in certain ways, and the protagonist of the Barnes story has certain similarities to Barnes himself. 

Is this a case of life imitating art?  Art imitating life?  Art imitating art?  None of the above?

Julian Barnes

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