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Nothing To Be Frightened Of

Nothing To Be Frightened Of [Kindle Edition]

Julian Barnes
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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"Both fun and funny. It is sharp too, in the sense of painful as well as witty... Barnes dissects with tremendous verve and insight this awesome inevitability of death and its impact on the human psyche. He also tears at your heart" (New Statesman)

"A maverick form of family memoir that is mainly an extended reflection on the fear of death and on that great consolation, religioous belief... It is entertaining, intriguing, inventive and invigorating slant on what is nowadays called 'life writing'. It took me hours to write this review because each reference to my notes set me off rereading; that is a reviewer's ultimate accolade" (Penelope Lively Financial Times)

"A brilliant bible of elegant despair...that most urgent kind of self-help manual: the one you must read before you die" (Tim Adams Vogue)

"Intensely fascinating" (The Times)

"An elegant memoir and meditation. A deep seismic tremor of a book that keeps rumbling and grumbling in the mind for weeks thereafter" (Garrison Keillor)


"This is the most enjoyable of all Barnes's books."

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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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Literary Grief 8 Oct 2009
Julian Barnes is a great author and an interesting thinker, and his subject here is perhaps the biggest of all subjects - mortality: specifically, the deaths of one's parents, one's own decline and fall, the meaning of life. Important news, then, and from an important source. I very much looked forward to watching his perspective form, and perhaps finding comfort and wisdom, or even just a few laughs, in his elegant prose.

Unfortunately the book didn't quite live up to its promise - for me, anyway. This is a very literary book - a self-consciously literary book in which every thought, feeling, experience, is dutifully backed up by a strangely numb Allusion To Literature. Instead of calling on his vast literary experience to enliven or illustrate the deadening weight of the feelings we all experience when our parents die, I felt Barnes was actually using literature as a hiding place from the feelings he meant to engage with. The net effect is an apparent callousness - as if one's dad's death is just an excellent opportunity for another starred First. I'm sure that is not what he intended, and God knows we all need a place to hide ... The book was just a little smaller in scope than I'd hoped.

Still read it, though. He writes like an angel.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exit Strategy 29 Mar 2009
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
The Grim Reaper: is he all bad? Having read this book it looks as though Julian Barnes certainly thinks so; some people are afraid of dying and some people are afraid of the blank eternal nothingness of death itself. I'd hold my hand up to the former - just the mere thought of hospital beds and pained-looks from relatives, not to mention all the weeping and wailing, makes me shiver with horror, but eternal nothingness? No, I can't say I have a problem with that. Barnes sees things from the opposite view-point. Dying is fine, it's just the fact that it results in death which causes him problems.

Barnes is always a joy to read. He writes with a dry elegance and he invariably has interesting things to say. Here, amidst all the staring into the abyss, he writes with humour - and perhaps more warmth than he might care to admit - about his parents and grandparents: their lives and loves, and of course their final release from earthly bonds. He also writes with a fabulous gallows humour about funerals - the fat worm that positively seems to strut in the soil by the open grave - and the way in which we dream about dying (quietly, with dignity and a witty final line) differs from the sadly more common reality (howling into the darkness). He is also good on religion, indeed the book begins with something of an atheist's lament: "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him'. Barnes's brother, a philosopher, regards this sentiment as 'soppy' and I know exactly what he means but I'm with Julian on this one. I don't believe either, but I suspect I'd feel happier if I did.

There is a great deal of gloomy graveside meditation in here but every page is touched with humour, reflection and learning. Barnes is great at wheeling out the apposite quotation or anecdote.
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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly constructed discourse on life and death 31 Mar 2008
I have long been a fan of Julian Barnes and purchased this new volume without reading reviews, as I now tend to do with favourite authors. I took it for granted that the writing would be excellent and it was. However, I was amazed at the feat that he has brought off here. The discourse on life and death, interwoven with autobiographical detail, passages about Jules Renard [and you don't need to know anything about him to enjoy the writing - to me he was only a name],combine to produce a stunning and thought-provoking book. It is one of the best he has written, for sheer content and style. Although death figures large, the result is never morbid. To me it is a celebration of life by one of the most literary of all writers. Where another author might have written separate chapters or disappeared down cul de sacs, Barnes has produced a masterpiece of constrained, fluid writing, integrating all the elements brilliantly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition disappointing 4 Oct 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book, but I've logged on purely to comment on the Kindle edition, which is littered with typos. The numeral 1 is often substituted for the capital letter I, r often appears instead of t, and there are numerous other errors scattered throughout. I can only assume the text was scanned in from a printed version, and nobody bothered to check the text properly afterwards. I expect better.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on death I've ever read 4 Jan 2009
By Nullius
Until now Julian Barnes has always been opaque - his writing has been brilliant but you never felt you knew much about the man, except that he is clearly a person of exceptional observational skill and insight. Now we have something of him, and my admiration has only grown.

This book may not be a memoir, but it is beautifully revealing. Barnes talks us through the various ways death has been, and can be, approached, and is by turns darkly hilarious and darkly terrifying - his gallows humour is about the best you'll ever read. But always, always, he is sure-footed and ferociously honest.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Locked in his Head 27 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Julian Barnes thinks of death every day, and it horrifies him to think that, as for every one of us, one day sooner or later will be his last. He looks at the views of various writers on death, particularly the French writer Jules Renard, and considers the worms crawling in and out of the putrifying body. He does not believe in God, but wishes he did, and God is very much a character in this book as Barnes argues with him, contradicts him, points out various unwise and unfair parts of his creation; Barnes' God is a stern, tough, grumpy old man. Well, Barnes writes well and often amusingly, but he has no concept of what God might be, no concept of the spiritual, no confidence in anything other than the standard materialist scientific view of life today. He has no emotional understanding of his characters (this coldness being the chief fault of his novels) or appreciation of anything other than logic and reason. He found his mother a talkative pain in the neck, and this may be one reason why he is locked in his narrow, urban (nature? Forget it) ultra cerebral male world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to be Frightened of
I started reading the book and found it well written and interesting, but then I lost interest so didn't finish it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by SL
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bells of Hell....
Part family memoir, but mainly a wide -ranging contemplation of our attitudes to the big D. I'm sure he's right; ting-a-ling-a-ling.
Published 3 months ago by Mensanna
3.0 out of 5 stars meanderings
rather self-indulgent chat about death, life and 'is there a god'. Rather few ideas that are repeated throughout, uncomfortably negative stuff about parents and brother, and about... Read more
Published 4 months ago by oxo
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and perceptive view of contemporary mortality through a literary...
'Nothing To Be Frightened Of' is an elegant hybrid of indirect autobiography and study of our relation to mortality in a post-religious age. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Paul Bowes
2.0 out of 5 stars Book in poor condition.
Several rifts in covers, especially at front. The book was not in the condition as was described. Hope this is a slip - or else I cannot recommend the seller.
Published 14 months ago by MagnyH
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest book which offers many perspectives
This book could be subtitled 'An anthology of literary anecdotes about death', Julian Barnes recounts the thoughts of literary figures on mortality as asides, woven into his own... Read more
Published 18 months ago by William Cohen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Perspective on Death from an Agnostic with an Ironic Sense...
"Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the LORD has done marvelous things!" -- Joel 2:21 (NKJV)

Having enjoyed some of Julian Barnes' novels, I picked up... Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2012 by Donald Mitchell
2.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
I have been a devoted Julian Barnes reader these past fifteen years and have always felt a bit like coming home every time I picked up a new one. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by Tilma
2.0 out of 5 stars The wrong kind of irony?
I suppose Barnes is what passes for avant garde in this country (Pinter was another such); but I can't help thinking he'd sound better in French - unlike certain Americans I like... Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2011 by Simon Barrett
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
I bought this book as it was recommended however found it very difficult to get 'into' therefore about a quater way through gave up on it sorry, but this doesnt mean you wont like... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2011 by Mrs. Sandra Leigh
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'The advice of the old is like the winter sun: it sheds light but does not warm us.' &quote;
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