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Cross Channel Paperback – 1 Oct 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099540150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099540151
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 558,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julian Barnes is the author of ten novels, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and Arthur & George; two books of short stories, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table; and also three collections of journalism, Letters from London, Something to Declare, and The Pedant in the Kitchen.

His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Médicis (for Flaubert's Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking it Over). In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg. He lives in London.

Product Description

Review

"Wonderfully ironic, perceptive and at times tender... Barnes has created something unique in his work, a particular way of looking at life, at words, at relationships, which is the mark of every true stylist" (Financial Times)

"His writing demonstrates the billowing lightness of imagination... reading these stories, you perceive and love France afresh... Cross Channel is characterised by the intelligence, irony and wit you associate with his writing, but it is also suffused with feeling, deeply seasoned with affection" (Independent)

"A glittering collection of stories... His marvellously supple and exact prose is matched with subjects that powerfully stir his creativity... It's impossible to imagine a fictional panorama of Britain's long relationship with France realized with more cordial understanding" (Sunday Times)

"Love, sex, art, literature, wars, religion, wine, spirit, the steam engine and, yes, Eurostar: they are all there. All the emotions, attitudes, pursuits and endeavours that typically seem to link Britain to France feature in the first collection of short stories by Julian Barnes...A delightful book" (European)

Book Description

Clever, wise, reflective and imaginative, these stories are permeated with understanding of what it has meant for generations of British people to cross the Channel and make a life in France.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
Published in 1996, this was the first volume of short stories from Julian Barnes. Its theme is the relationship between Britain and France, as illustrated by the attempts of English people to engage with their nearest neighbours. They're viewed in a variety of situations which range from building a railway in mid-nineteenth century Northern France, through visiting the military graveyards in mourning for a brother killed on the Somme, to taking part in the Tour de France. It's a diverting collection which I originally read when it was first published, and pulled off the shelf to re-read on a trip to Paris last week. As he effortlessly switches between times and voices, the author's writing is - as always - of a very high standard: ironic, perceptive and tender.

Of the stories presented here, I found the casual violence and desecration of the foreigners in "Dragons", and the attempt to subtly draw out some underlying themes in the closing "Tunnel" to be the most effective, but all are entertaining and cleverly assembled. Barnes had already touched on his theme of Anglo-French relations in his breakthrough novel Flaubert's Parrot, and would return to this topic in his non-fiction collection Something to Declare, but this little book contains many cross-cultural delights and insights that make it worth (re)reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard Briggs on 5 April 2000
Format: Paperback
Barnes excels at the finely crafted pen-portrait, and this, as is his remarkable *History of the World* plays to his strengths: short-stories loosely connected by an over-arching theme; here a certain French connection. He uses twists and turns to good effect, although this is no 'tales of the unexpected'. Not exactly un-put-downable, but always thought-provoking, and occasionally smile or tear -provoking.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on 29 Nov. 2002
Format: Paperback
Mr. Julian Barnes wrote his history of the world in 10 and one half chapters. In this collection of short stories he decided to be a bit more conventional, and confine his 10 stories to only 10 chapters. It is here the similarity stops, for while this Author is not the only writer to have published shorter versions of their written thoughts, just like his novels they are special, unique, and share place with only a few peers.

The commonality here is not as apparent as in his "History Of The World", or other collections that carry a continuous thread. There is the consistency of the experiences of the English and the French, and the events they share, memorialize, desecrate, and impose upon one another. The most interesting manner by which these stories are linked is literally explained in the final sentence. It is not a clumsy device, but a bit of insight typical of Mr. Barnes.

While a given story may not encompass a great swath of time, when taken as an assemblage the reader tours the Centuries ranging from the 17th to the 21st. And while not heavy handed, he manages to bring together the farthest reaches of time in his stories to common points. They are often subtle, other times less so, but always inventive. Two aspects I enjoyed were the use of "The Dragons", and the part wine played in this writing.

Many of the stories are lighter, highlighting relationships, shared positive experience, and success. Mr. Barnes brings balance to this anthology by also exposing the darker sides of man's history, as well as his attributes.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By katetudor on 14 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a Barnes fan, but as yet I haven't read this one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Bittersweet stories about English people in France 25 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The "Channel" in Cross Channel is the English Channel. The common theme in this masterful collection of short stories, is the experience of British people who have crossed the Channel and spent sometime in France. The time, social and cultural extraction of this people are quite diverse, as are the reasons for their being in France. From the old lady who goes to France every year to remember a loved one killed in WWI and who sees WWII as a threat to the memory of those killed in the First War, to the young man who gets involved with French Surrealists in a strange sexual experiment, to the experiences of British workers building sections of the French railway system... all these stories are alive and lively. And they have one more thing in common: they are wonderful! Nobody like Julian Barnes to keep the reader's interest high all the time; he develops each story in such as a way that even the mundane is thrilling and will lead -perhaps- to the unexpected. ! The style is impeccable, and Barnes uses a lot of true events as base for the fiction in the stories, so along with their intrinsic beauty, the reader will also learn some interesting historical facts. I don't know if it was Barnes' intention in writing "Cross Channel" to make us realize that as different national psyches England and France appear to have, they also have a lot more in common (the human and emotional factor he so vividly portrays). And, although you may not be particularly interested in comprehending British-French relations, there is a feeling of universality in them that comes through very palpably. These are not superficial stories. They are very charged emotionally, they are sad and funny, tragic and mundane, and in the process they will stir the reader's emotions. If anybody has any doubts about Julian Barnes being one of the most gifted contemporary writers, reading "Cross Channel" will do a lot to dispel them. I highly reco! mmend this book.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This Time 10, Not 10.5� 18 Dec. 2000
By taking a rest - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mr. Julian Barnes wrote his History of the world in 10 and one half chapters. In this collection of short stories he decided to be a bit more conventional, and confine his 10 stories to only 10 chapters. It is here the similarity stops, for while this Author is not the only writer to have published shorter versions of their written thoughts, just like his novels they are special, unique, and share place with only a few peers.
The commonality here is not as apparent as in his "History Of The World", or other collections that carry a continuous thread. There is the consistency of the experiences of the English and the French, and the events they share, memorialize, desecrate, and impose upon one another. The most interesting manner by which these stories are linked is literally explained in the final sentence. It is not a clumsy device, but a bit of insight typical of Mr. Barnes.
While a given story may not encompass a great swath of time, when taken as an assemblage the reader tours the Centuries ranging from the 17th to the 21st. And while not heavy handed, he manages to bring together the farthest stretches of time in his stories to common points. They are often subtle, other times less so, but always inventive. Two aspects I enjoyed were the use of "The Dragons", and the part wine played in this writing.
Many of the stories are lighter, highlighting relationships, shared positive experience, and success. Mr. Barnes brings balance to this anthology by also exposing the darker sides of man's history, as well as his attributes. We watch Religious fervor visited with a cruelness that is painfully unique to the religiously persecuted, one person's vision of a time when sacrifice will not longer be remembered much less honored, and the events that the future does unfold.
Memories play a variety of roles even when uttered by the same individual. The reader can decide if the recalled thoughts are revisionary, romanticized, or outright fabrication. But whichever category you choose you will be greatly entertained.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
coda to Braithwhaite's ruminations on France and life 16 July 2007
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Brits abroad often bring to mind images of endomorphic, bawling, sunburned men drunkenly marauding in the south of Spain, or perhaps at an England football away match. Not, of course, in the hands of Julian Barnes, who strictly demarcates his fiction between the crass and vulgar (his pulp 'Duffy' detective novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh) and his more regular literary output which often focuses on questions of France, and its relationship with Barnes's native Britain.

Barnes is a phenomenally cultured Francophile (for a manifestation of this, check out his essay collection 'Something to Declare') and his prose at its best is playful, witty and detailed. Barnes, the linguist, and former lexicographer and law student has a keen eye for the curious details of life. He can spin fictional gold out of a simple engraving on a stone, or a bottle of wine, or an elegant account of Medieval Religious persecution. This he did to great effect in his 1984 novel, Flaubert's Parrot, which is one of the most elegant and playful novels ever written, and to lesser, but still successful effect, in his 1989 big canvas novel 'A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters'.

Cross Channel takes the themes developed in these two novels - love, history, art, food, persecution, memory - and adds to them a sort of coda in the form of ten elegant, formally sophisticated stories. It should be said at the outset that Cross Channel is not as accomplished a book as the previous novels mentioned, but is still worth reading as form of the most elegant type of travel literature.

All of the stories feature British (and Irish) people in France. The first, and maybe best story, Interference concerns an elderly English composer who wants his wife to hear his final compositional masterpiece on the radio but can't get decent reception unless everyone else in their isolated French village is silent. Junction is a fairly flat story telling the story of the Paris - Rouen railway, partially built by British navies. Experiment is a tongue in cheek pastiche of surrealism: a young man tries to unravel the story of his lumpen, heavy drinking uncle's participation in a sexual experiment with Andre Breton and pals. Melon is another fairly disappointing story which revolves around an aristocratic man's unawareness of the origins of his food, and a cricket match around the time of the French Revolution. Evermore is a cracker, a poignant story about an elderly woman who makes annual pilgrimages to northern France where her son was killed in the First World War. It is a quiet, reflective piece on the difficulties of maintaining memory over the years, with the ghost of Kipling lingering beneath the surface.

Gnossiene is a short piece that doesn't quite come off about a man travelling to a literary conference to a destination that seems to be a hoax. Barnes here has fun, based on his own experiences being interviewed by literary critics in France, with contrasting the French and Anglo Saxon mindsets 'so Monsieur Clements, le mythe et la realite?'. Dragons takes us back a while (there is great historical sweep in these stories) to a time when ignorance, superstition and religious persecution ruled in Medieval France. Brambilla brings us back to modern themes with some riffs on the Tour de France - including the tale of the drug raddled cyclist who offered his girlfriend's urine as a sample: 'the good news is you're clean. The bad news is you're pregnant'. Hermitage is a quintessential Barnes tale of women and wine set in the late 19th Century - two English spinsters buy a vineyard in France and set about creating their own version of an idyll copied a century later by middle class Brits: 'Idling glances proposed a different life: in a timbered Normandy farmhouse, a trim Burgundy manoir, a backwater chateau of the Berry.'

The final story, Tunnel, stretches the timescale into the future (sometime soon after 2009 I think we are meant to surmise judging by the vintage of wine drunk in that story). Barnes seems to be fond of setting his stories in the near future - he used the same trick in 'Staring at the Sun, published in 1985 but the time frame for the end of that novel soon approaching). Perhaps he plans to read over these stories in his old age and see how they have stood the test of time. The narrator of Tunnel is an elderly English novelist (Barnes himself perhaps?) who reflects on ageing and France on a Eurostar trip from London to Paris. Here's a passage from that story which could only come from the pen of Julian Barnes:

'He turned away form himself and began to speculate about his immediate neighbours. To his right were three fellows in suits plus a chap in a striped blazer; opposite him an elderly woman. Elderly: that's to say, about the same age as himself. He said the word again, slid it around his mouth. He'd never much cared for it - there was something slimy and ingratiating about its use - and now that he was himself what the word denoted, he liked it even less. Young, middle-aged, elderly, old, dead; this was how life was conjugated. (No, life was a noun, so this was how life declined. Yes, that was better in any case, life declined. A third sense there too: life refused, life not fully grasped. 'I see now that I have always been afraid of life,' Flaubert had once conceded. Was this true of all writers? And was it, in any case, a necessary truth: in order to be a writer, you needed in some sense to decline life?'...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Accomplished short stories from a renowned novelist 20 Oct. 2012
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ten stories, each a variation on the theme of the British in France. A British general, held prisoner by Napoleon, settles into his dotage with memories of two earlier expeditions to France, one a Grand Tour of sorts as a very young man, the other a challenge cricket match that was pretermitted by the French Revolution. British contractors, with their British navvies, construct the railroad from Paris to Rouen to Le Havre. Two English spinsters acquire a dilapidated estate in Pauillac and learn the winemaking chicaneries of vinage and coupage. An aging Englishwoman, who works as a copyeditor on a dictionary project, continues her annual pilgrimage of fifty years to the grave of her brother at Cabaret Rouge, one of the cemeteries for soldiers killed in the Great War. A bicycle racer and his girlfriend, a stripper, recount stories of the Tour de France and other races, including stratagems to fool the drug-testers. And five more. The settings of the stories range from the 1660's to 2015 (the last of the stories engages in a slight temporal projection).

Published in 1996, CROSS CHANNEL was Julian Barnes's first collection of short stories. And it reveals him to be a master of the form. With many books of short stories, the contents all come from the same mold. Not so CROSS CHANNEL, in which Barnes employs different styles and voices, always in an accomplished and assured fashion. What the stories have in common is grace, charm, sophistication, and their humaneness.

To me, two of the stories were particularly striking. "Experiment" is about the time, in 1928, when the narrator's Uncle Freddy was enlisted by the Surrealists to participate in their sexual research. Uncle Freddy was challenged to distinguish between two young women he had sex with blindfolded. The story ends with a clever twist, an engaging analogue from the world of wine. In the last story of the book, "Tunnel", the narrator - who turns out to be Julian Barnes himself - is taking the Eurostar from London to Paris, via the Chunnel. The story consists of Barnes's musings about his fellow travellers and about aging, as well as remembrances of travels from his past. For example:

"He remembered . . . no, that verb, he increasingly found, was often inexact. He seemed to remember, or he retrospectively imagined, or he reconstructed, from films and books with the aid of a nostalgia as runny as old Camembert, a time when travellers crossing Europe by train would become acquaintances for the length of the journey."

CROSS CHANNEL is not usually cited as one of Barnes's best or most noted books. To my mind, it deserves to be better known. As, perhaps, does Barnes as an author. For example, why isn't he Sir Julian Barnes?

Four-and-a-half stars.
One of my favourite books 9 Oct. 2013
By Mr. J. M. Davies - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The short stories in this book are some of my favourites. Brambilla is one of the best pieces I have ever read, in my opinion. Captures the world of cycle racing.
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