"Something has happened – Julian Barnes has won the Booker Prize at the fourth attempt.
That 'Something happened' is all one can say of any historical event according to Adrian Finn, the lost link in the chain of responsibility running through Barnes's winning novella, The Sense of an Ending.
This is a twisting, tricksy, remorseful but reader-friendly narrative in which it transpires that there is 'great unrest' where the first-person narrator Tony Webster thought there had only been an uneventful life.
'We need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us', Finn also notes, observing that the fine line between objective and subjective history is the key to historiographical questioning. It is also the key to Barnes's saddest story.
Echoing his previous novels' interest in history and life-writing, Barnes's latest fiction argues that the past is written in the present at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.
Tony Webster's story itself thus unfolds and then unravels when recollection and the written record collide in a regretter's tragedy. This is surely a worthy Booker winner that underlines how, following the equally impressive Arthur & George, Barnes has produced in the twenty-first century work of equal stature to his feted 1980s novels Flaubert's Parrot and A History of the World in 10½ Chapters."
Peter Childs is Professor of English Literature at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. He is co-editor, with Sebastian Groes of Julian Barnes: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (see here for a free preview).
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