9781400030873 / 1400030870

Something to Declare: Essays on France and French Culture





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About the book:

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 Frances 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 hed shut up about Flaubert."

However, the essays in the first half of the book go some way towards fulfilling the publishers 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

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