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Something to Declare [Paperback]

Julian Barnes
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Jan 2002
Eighteen witty and brilliant essays on France from Julian Barnes; Julian Barnes's long and passionate relationship with France began more than forty years ago. As sceptical observer on family motoring holidays, assistant in a school in Brittany, student of the language and literature, author of Flaubert's Parrot and Cross Channel, he has criss-crossed the country and its culture The essays collected here, written over a twenty-year period, attest to his cleareyed appreciation of the Land Without Brussels Sprouts. He ranges widely, from landscape to literature, food to Flaubert, film and song to the Tour de France. His humour, timing and intelligence never falter. When Picador published his Letters from London, the Financial Times called him 'our finest essayist'. Something to Declare confirms that judgment: it is a great literary delight.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (11 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033048916X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330489164
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 657,714 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

Amazon Review

According to his publisher, Something to Declare reflects Julian Barnes’ "long and passionate relationship with France". This is slightly disingenuous. More than half the book actually reflects his long and passionate relationship with the work of France’s greatest 19th-century novelist, Gustave Flaubert. Barnes, as any reader of Flaubert's Parrot knows, admires the author of Madame Bovary more than any other writer and he has, over the years, reviewed a number of books on his hero. These reviews make up the second half of Something to Declare. Not everybody has Barnes’ professional, indeed scholarly, interest in Flaubert. The prose is as witty and intelligent as always but many readers may find their attention flagging occasionally. Some may even want to echo Kingsley Amis’ comment, quoted in Barnes’ preface--"I wish he’d shut up about Flaubert."

However, the essays in the first half of the book go some way towards fulfilling the publisher’s promise that Barnes "ranges widely" through French life and culture. Memories of his time as an assistant at a school in Brittany link neatly with an admiring assessment of three archetypal French singers--Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Boris Vian. An account of Edith Wharton and Henry James making a stately tour of France in 1907 is juxtaposed with an essay on the Tour de France and its importance to the French public. Truffaut is lauded and the ineffable Jean-Luc Godard is enjoyably trashed. Though Barnes is characteristically cool and ironic in these essays, "a passionate relationship with France" does emerge from Something to Declare--and with Flaubert, of course. --Nick Rennison


'Julian Barnes seems to have done more for Anglo-French relations than anyone since Edward VII' Daily Telegraph; 'The French revere Julian Barnes - and we. I think, quite wrongly, just admire him' Joanna Trollope

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic but for Flaubert 1 April 2003
By A Customer
Julian Barnes is, in my view, one of the best modern writers. This collection of essays on topics relating to France and the French is as good as always. He manages to be both erudite and amusing - every time I read his stories he makes me fascinated by what he writes about, even the asides are interesting. I would have to agree with Sir Kingsley Amis's comment quoted on the back cover, though, I wish he would shut up about Flaubert too. I enjoy Flaubert's books. I am interested in Flaubert as a writer. But Julian Barnes has, in his fascination for Flaubert, delved too deeply for the average reader who does not share quite such a deep passion for him. Almost half the book is devoted to aspects of Flaubert. None of the essays on Flaubert are as entertaining and engrossing as the earlier essays, even though they have their interesting sections. Even so, I would highly recommend the book to anyone who likes France, likes Julian Barnes' writing, or has an easily-awakened curiosity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection from a quality author! 1 Feb 2002
By A Customer
Julian Barnes's latest collection of essays explores the unique world of French sensibilities, food, culture, art, and literature. The introduction is superbly funny and, at times, touching, as Barnes attempts to explain his reasons for becoming a Francophile. Several essays on Flaubert are included, including a masterful piece of literary criticism into the "Small Minor Character" of Justin in Flaubert's *Madame Bovary*. Other authors and artists are discussed, as well, and Barnes reveals his keen insight into the artistic creation process.
The essays originated from articles and reviews written over a nearly twenty year period, but having compared several of these early writings to this new book I've discovered often drastic reworkings. Taking the time to develop the earlier pieces helps make this collection its own entity.
Highly recommended!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected but Brilliant 28 Jan 2003
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Firstly, I did not gather all this book had to offer, as I do not have the knowledge that Mr. Barnes requires regarding French popular music of decades ago, including Georges Brassens, Boris Vian and Jacques Brel, and other topics that can only be fully appreciated if you have previous knowledge of them. Another example is his detailed discussion of French Cinema, again, hard to appreciate fully without prior and extensive knowledge. As a testament to his writing skill and style, these barriers did not keep me from reading every bit of this book. Unfortunately I had to read many parts as a novice, but his talent as a writer makes that effort an easy one to make.
There are many essays that will appeal to a wide audience, Edith Wharton, the Tour de France, Henry James, and his discourses on the writers George Sand, Victor Hugo, Stephane Mallarme, and Ivan Turgenev. No book such as this by Mr. Barnes would even be contemplated without a large portion being devoted to Gustave Flaubert, his friends, his actions, and the world he lived in and created. Flaubert is the basis for Mr. Barnes to explore the role of biography, the selective use of historical fact, personal papers, and the revisionist methods that can be employed when even identical source material is used to document the same individual. When Mr. Barnes makes an appearance in the book it is a picture of him standing by the final resting place of his much loved topic, the final resting place of Flaubert.
The topics I mention are not even close to an exhaustive list of the material that is covered. I have read virtually all of the books and essays that Mr. Barnes has published, and this book is decidedly unique. The book falls short of 300 pages only because the author chose to keep it dense.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "I wish he'd shut up about Flaubert". 18 Sep 2013
By Philip Mayo VINE VOICE
I love some of Julian Barnes's books, but not this one.

The Amazon book description starts off.." Eighteen witty and brilliant essays..."

Witty !? Give me a break!

Barnes himself tells us in the preface to this very collection that Kingsley Amis once complained to a friend of Barnes, "I wish he'd shut up about Flaubert". Well, me too!!
I give this book a mere 2 out of 5 not because it is poorly written but because so much of it has to do with Flaubert and closely related matters. This may well interest some people. But count me out, and Kingsley Amis too, it seems.

I read the few essays that interested me, and they were excellent. I skipped the rest.
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