Something to Declare: Essays on France and French Culture
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Something to Declare: Essays on France and French Culture

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Anyone who loves France (or just feels strongly about it), or has succumbed to the spell of Julian Barnes’s previous books, will be enraptured by this collection of essays on the country and its culture.

Barnes’s appreciation extends from France’s vanishing peasantry to its hyper-literate pop singers, from the gleeful iconoclasm of nouvelle vague cinema to the orgy of drugs...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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I think the something that needs to be declared is that the title is a gross misnomer. It would be far more accurate to call it Essays on Flaubert and French Culture.

The bulk of the essays in this volume deal with Flaubert, his life, and his work. The non-Flaubert essays are a delight to read. His Flaubert essays, while informative, go on for too long. Sorry, Mr Barnes, but I didn’t really need all that detail about his agonising over his writing. And for those with an interest in Barnes's take...more
Patrick L
... a Paris which still 9jsuT) contained Edith Wharton, though what fascinated him was popular life rather than literary pilgrimage: the street vendors and flame-swallowers, the strolling musicians and prostitutes, the manacled strong men enjoying 'droit de pave' on the immensely wide pavement'; the world of obscure bars and tiny, four-table restaurants; the exuberance, volubility, and cheerful anarchy of the daily scene. ... He delighted in the pungent Metro and the convivial plateforme d'autob...more
This book of essays covers many of the topics that are recognized as French territory: filmmaker Truffaut and the New Wave, the Tour de France, the singers of the 50's-60's who moaned on finding out that they were sharing their mistresses with others. And then there are the nine, yes nine, chapters on Barnes' favorite writer, Flaubert.

The writing is engaging from the beginning as Barnes describes his family vacations around France year after year, and his growing sense of comfort with the French...more
Nick Jones
Julian Barnes is famous for his Francophilia. Here is a collection of essays about France, many originally published as book reviews. The first half of the book glances over a number of aspects of France: food, cycling, songs, the cinema (Truffaut and Godard)... Barnes is always witty and civilized, caring deeply about the country and its culture. But the France he loves is that of the rural and the small towns, the France he visited on family holidays as a child. And there always remains someth...more
This book collects France-related essays by Julian Barnes written over the course of almost two decades. There are some travel-pieces, and some personal reminiscences, but the bulk of the pieces are essentially book reviews -- and the bulk of those deal with a Barnes favourite, Gustave Flaubert. It does not read like a review-collection, however, as Barnes is in his Montaigne-like mode of writing with the books under discussion often merely a convenient stepping-stone for Barnes to share his own...more
Catherine Woodman
Julian Barnes is a long established francophile, and the last half of the book is almost entirely devoted to Flaubert and his circle of influence. The other half is focused on French culture--both cuisine, but also their intellectual life. FOr those that are going to France and want to get a bit immersed in more than the regions, but the historical affiliation with the written word, this is a good place to start. Barnes feels that Flaubert's letters are a good window into his soul, and details w...more
I typically love JB's fiction, and I started off loving this collection of essays, too. However, I'm not as obsessed with Flaubert as JB is, and the last 5/8 of the book were directly about or tangentially related to Flaubert's life and books. I learned a few things, but the later essays didn't hold my interest the way the earlier ones did. Of course, I'm in law school, so lots of things that would ordinarily hold my interest don't because I read a lot of dry case law . . . but a few of these es...more
I picked this up off Kate's shelf as something to read before I fell asleep, and she let me borrow it to finish on the bus ride home. Thanks.

Englishman Barnes meanders through various things French, from his childhood trips to drug use in theTour de France, songs of Boris Vian and Jacques Brel to his old obsession Flaubert.

I follow him with interest through all of it; he’s a charming and unobtrusive guide. I add Llosa’s “Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary” to my list.
Paul Duggan
Barnes seems to be the world's greatest living authority on Gustave Flaubert and his masterpiece, Madame Bovary. If you don't think so when you pick up this book, you will by the end.

The first nine of seventeen chapters cover a variety of interesting subjects regarding France.

The last eight are all Flaubert and when not about Flaubert, about his lover Louis Colet.

I'll come back after I reread Madame Bovary. Or perhaps I'll just watch Chabrol's movie.
Jan 12, 2009 Keeley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Francophiles
Mr Barnes and I have very different taste -- he is Flaubertist, atheist, Francophile; I enjoy religion, hate Flaubert, and have had awful times travelling in France -- but his enthusiasm for France, literature, film and the lives of earlier authors make for an interesting read. I am left with increased respect for the merits of the things he loves, even if not with an inclination to run out and read Mme. Bovary again while being insulted by Parisians.
Aug 02, 2011 Sheba added it
The handful of essays on French culture as seen through the eyes of an Englishman were provocative and incredibly enlightening. Barnes has a grasp on both English and French languages and cultures that's enviable and daunting. The only drawback is his obsessive, academician love of Flaubert. Two-thirds of the book is weighted with essays on Flaubert, and while they retain their own draw the book's varied cultural criticism was lost.
Sundarraj Kaushik
This is a book by an author in admiration of another author who lived a century ago. An interesting book for somebody wanting to know details of Gustave Flaubert his life and the other authors with whom he competed and interacted during this life.
Unless one is familiar with the characters it will be difficult to appreciate this book.
Julian Barnes is my secret boyfriend (it's a secret from him as well) and I find him fascinating on every subject, even George Brassens. With a book of essays, it is often not so much the content that matters but the company, the authorial voice. Reading it feels like time spent with the author--screw Barthes' Death of the Author.
Found this a bit frustrating. Absolutely loved the first hundred pages. The next 200 were pretty much all about Gustave Flaubert, and as someone who hasn't read any GF yet (no, not even Madame Bovary) I found them pretty hard going. I ended up sharing Kingsley Amis's opinion from the jacket.
The blurb states that this set of essays "ranges widely" over French culture; I beg to differ. Most of the second half is taking up with literary analysis of Flaubert and it gets tedious. I'm afraid I'm with Kingsley Amis on this one: "I wish he'd shut up about Flaubert"!
Hooray I finally got through it :D It was hard because of "sophisticated" vocabulary but it was interesting. Julian Barnes likes Gustave Flaubert a lot and these are essays about his work (mainly Madame Bovary) and his life.
These essays on France make one water in the mouth and want to book those tickets. Yet where would I encounter such tales like Barnes? only in this wonderaful collection.
Amos Kovacs
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School...more
More about Julian Barnes...
The Sense of an Ending Arthur & George A History of the World in 10½  Chapters Flaubert's Parrot Talking It Over

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