Nothing To Be Frightened Of: Julian Barnes

This is the year for books about death – how we approach it, worry about it and prepare for it. And while Julian Barnes’s new book is not only about death, the grim reaper is certainly causing Barnes some consternation. As is God. ‘I don’t believe in God, but I miss him’ says Barnes, as he proceeds to delve into the reasons we believe in God or not. This is not an easily defined work; it is part memoir, part philosophy, part homage to Barnes’s favourite thinkers, such as Jules Renard. However, one of the most interesting aspects of it is Barnes’s inclusion of numerous conversations and arguments with his brother, the philosopher Jonathan Barnes, about atheism, death, the way we remember life. It adds to the feeling that we are being let into his most personal thoughts. Barnes (Julian, that is) is very careful to warn us that this is not his autobiography, but fans of his work, and those who are simply interested in what he is interested in and would like to read an intelligent, articulate exposition on such matters, will lap this up because this is probably the closest they will get to having a look inside this agile mind.