Two years after the best-selling Arthur & George, Julian Barnes gives us a memoir on mortality that touches on faith and science and family as well as a rich array of exemplary figures who over the centuries have confronted the same questions he now poses about the most basic fact of life: its inevitable extinction.
If the fear of death is “the most rational thing in the world,” how does one contend with it? An atheist at twenty, an agnostic at sixty, Barnes looks into the various arguments for and against and with God, and at the bloodline whose archivist, following his parents’ death, he has become—another realm of mystery, wherein a drawer of mementos and his own memories (not to mention those of his philosopher brother) often fail to connect. There are other ancestors, too: the writers—“most of them dead, and quite a few of them French”—who are his daily companions, supplemented by composers and theologians and scientists whose similar explorations are woven into this account with an exhilarating breadth of intellect and felicity of spirit.
Deadly serious, masterfully playful, and surprisingly hilarious, Nothing to Be Frightened Of is a riveting display of how this supremely gifted writer goes about his business and a highly personal tour of the human condition and what might follow the final diagnosis.
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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, absorbing...an 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)
"The overall effect is that of an edifying conversation with an interesting, knowledgeable but refreshingly unpretentious thinker."
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