A brilliant, discursive, very funny book about death and the fear of death, god, nature, nurture and the author’s childhood. The closest thing to a memoir Barnes will ever write.
‘I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.’ Julian Barnes’ new book is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the French writer Jules Renard. Though he warns us that ‘this is not my autobiography’, the result is a tour of the mind of one of our most brilliant writers.
When Angela Carter reviewed Barnes’ first novel, Metroland, she praised the mature way he wrote about death. Now, nearly thirty years later, he returns to the subject in a wise , funny and constantly surprising book, which defies category and classification – except as Barnesian.
“A superb new book... a disquisition on death that addresses religion, philosophy, literature, identity, memory, evolutionary biology and the nature of the universe. It is his funniest and frankest work yet”
“It is entertaining, intriguing, absorbing and so expansive that I was startled on finishing, to note its brevity....a text that is populous, so bursting with voices that it seems almost to be a novel... elegance that makes a sombre subject irresistible reading... it is 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
“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 eye. Although there is something invigorating about his scholarly meditation, overall the mood of the memento mori is of spirited stoicism tempering the dread - a reminder that, within this successful, sophisticated, erudite writer in his sixties, there still lives an anxious little boy'”
“The grim reaper slinks through every page of Julian Barnes's compelling memoir-cum-meditation...he is consistently interesting and entertaining”
“It is witty, poignant and allusive, deals with the problems of memory and bristles with asides on poetry, penguins and religion...This preoccupation with death takes Barnes on a journey that meanders as delightfully as the topic is melancholy.. what surprises me most about Nothing To Be Frightened Of is how funny it actually is.. For all the wit, a vein of irony runs through the book... there is nothing glib or facetious about this book despite its overwhelming sense of the massive absurdity at the heart of being alive”
Scotland on Sunday
“An essay in the best sense: speculative and precise, intimate and metaphysical, capacious and democratic in the variety of voices, alive and dead, that are invited to counsel the author as he edges his way towards the void”
“Intensely serious book of striking elegance: a clever, complicated reverie on last things, so full of ideas as to reveal itself quite slowly, through frequent re-reading”
Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph, Books of the Year
“A fantastic work of non-fiction, a showcase for his elegantly unfussy sentences and Barnes's ability to burrow to the very bottom of a subject, no matter how daunting”
Colin Waters, The Sunday Herald
“Julian Barnes takes on the ambitious subject of death - and succeeds brilliantly”
William Leith, Scotsman
“It is a sincere, humble work, punctuated by moments of poignancy”
Colm Farren, The Irish Times