Barnes, Julian Something to Declare

ISBN 13: 9780330489164

Something to Declare

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9780330489164: Something to Declare
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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 clear-eyed 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 judgement: it is a great literary delight. '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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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

Review:

'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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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781400030873: Something to Declare: Essays on France and French Culture (Vintage International)

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