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Nothing to Be Frightened Of

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,486 ratings  ·  399 reviews
Two years after the best-selling Arthur & George, Julian Barnes gives us a memoir on mortality that touches on faith and science and family as well as a rich array of exemplary figures who over the centuries have confronted the same questions he now poses about the most basic fact of life: its inevitable extinction.

If the fear of death is “the most rational thing in th
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Knopf (first published 2008)
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i almost like your book. almost. it's a fun synthesis of a bunch of death related topics, there're some great historical and personal anecdotes, tons of interesting hypothetical situations and philosophical either/ors... but i object to your britishness, y'know? that whole mannered and clever and cautious thing...? this is death, man! the end! finito! skull and crossbones! grim reaper! "nothing more terrible, nothing more true!"

sure, there are gems throughout, but ultimately your book about dea

In this massive eructation of self-indulgent, rambling, repetitive prose, Julian Barnes contemplates his mortality. At considerable, punishing, length. Where does it get him? To paraphrase another writer: And the end of all his exploring is to arrive where he began. Despite the purgatorial length of this hideous hairball of a book, he never really arrives at any conclusion. The reader isn't even offered the courtesy of a chapter break. The book just meanders on with no
Does arriving at “a certain age” predispose one to thoughts of dying? Is it because I have retired that I think about death every day? I doubt it, since I have thought about it every day for as long as I can remember, for decades. Does having been a physician keep the idea of death in my mind, even after I am no longer in practice? I don’t know whether it is true of other physicians or not, nor do I know whether non-physicians have the same experience – I suspect the phenomenon is vocation neutr ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
In one of our bathrooms we keep a drum of water which is usually half-filled and always uncovered. Occasionally, for reasons I do not know, a rat would fall into it. There'd be no way for it to climb back out. And as no one in our household is plucky enough to handle a live rat, we'll just let it stay there until it tires and finally drowns. The big black ones succumb faster than the smaller ones. The record holder of sorts was a really tough, brown, less-than-medium-sized rat athlete who kept o ...more
I generally don’t read other people’s reviews of books before I write my own – I worry that I will end up so affected by their review that I will never know if what I have to say after reading them will really be my reaction to the book or to their review – worse, of course, is to then go on to write a review that says much the same as they have said while thinking of them as my own thoughts. But for some reason I read what one of the best reviewers on this site had to say about the book: http:/ ...more
Fascinating, witty, and absorbing. This provocative memoir, ostensibly about Julian Barnes' fear of death and dying, and the nonexistence he thinks he faces afterwards, has lots of interesting things to say about belief and disbelief in God, about family, memory, and being a writer.

The tone throughout is personal, and somehow both serious and lighthearted, at times comical. (Aside to those who've read the opening pages -- I'll never be able to tell friends again with a straight face about how I
Only last week I was walking through Highgate Cemetery in North London, seeking out the grave of George Eliot (and taking in Marx’s now that I was there, and a few others) when I happened to walk by the grave of Julian Barnes’s wife, who I didn’t know was buried there. By coincidence, I had been listening to Barnes reading aloud this volume, which was published just six months before his wife died. How apt that he should have delved into death just months before, how ironic and how sad.

This is NOT going to be a review of the book, because ... I don't even know why I can't review this book. I can just talk about my own experience of it. Just this time, I promise.

I am so afraid of death that it cripples me.

That sounds so pompuos, but it's true.

I am afraid of death, because it never just comes and goes. If it would be like that, none of us would ever suffer. We are human. We need time to addapt, to understand, we need to be conscious of what's happening to us or to the ones ar
I haven't read any of Mr. Barnes's fiction, but this work of prose (an "elegant memoir") has been a joy to read. Barnes muses on death by integrating ideas of mortality, memory, family history, questions about religion and the after-life, literature and philosophy (mostly French philosophers). "Nothing to be Frightened of" is not nearly as earthy as Thomas Lynch's "The Undertaking." Lynch is fully aware that mortality rate of humans is always 100% and he seems unfrightened to confront that final ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
On and on he goes! Where he stops, no one knows!

With a great title like that and a cover showing me a grave, I expected sooooo much more. What a bummer.

What I got were the rambling thoughts of the author on his eventual demise, the demise of his parents, what (drop in big name -preferably French- philosopher/artist here) thought, and what his friends C., G., H. and T. think about death. (I hate that initial shit. Make up a name if they want to be anonymous.)

None of this seemed to flow or come to
4 and 1/2 stars

I was drawn to this book because of Barnes' writing and because of the topic. And if it sounds odd to say one enjoyed a book about the fear of death/complete-annihilation, so be it. Barnes is entertaining, erudite, and even chuckle-out-loud funny in this book. He also writes of memories of his childhood, how they differ from those of his brother, how narrative/story both shapes and changes what we remember or what we think we remember, and contemplates the idea of memory = identit
I got ‘Nothing to be Frightened of’ by Julian Barnes a few years back. I haven’t read a Julian Barnes book before – I had read bits and pieces of ‘A History of the World in 10 chapters’ and liked it, but I hadn’t finished it. The first page of ‘Nothing to be Frightened of’ started with this sentence – “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him. That’s what I say when the question is put.” It grabbed me and so I wanted to read the book as soon as I went home. I read a few pages and they were as goo ...more
"I don't believe in God, but I miss Him."

If you're a Julian Barnes fan, an opening line like that is one of the reasons you read him. This book is funny, challenging, enlightening, frustrating and (despite its title) frightening. But tackling a subject as death needs doses of all those things, and Barnes pulls it off.

For those friends that have never read Barnes, I don't recommend this as your first read. If you come to this book by way of any of his other non-fiction, or his tremendous fiction
You know, when you have that friend - the one you met years ago, when they were quite a bit older than you, and now you know them better you can understand properly how much more of the world they've seen than you have. And every so often, you'll find yourself in the same city as them, and you'll take them out for dinner or a coffee, and you'll ask them a question, something innocuous like "So what have you been up to, then?" and they'll talk. And then, the conversation moves further away from w ...more
Nathan Hobby
I couldn’t put this memoir down. I didn’t mean to read it all but I couldn’t help it. I could discern no structure at all, but just followed Barnes for two hundred pages of reflections on death and God through the lens of his family. The whole memoir has the sort of wistfulness of the opening line quoted in the title of this post: ‘I don’t believe in God but I miss him.’

Despite the constant humour, it is a frightening book to read. I have never thought through so fully the consequences of not be
Another gem from Julian Barnes, perhaps best characterized as a memoir in essay form.

By which I mean, it doesn't have a narrative arc or set out to take us through Barnes' life or any particular chronological section of it. In fact, it leaves lots out--his marriage and his professional life are noticeably absent.

Instead, it begins the way a magazine essay on mortality might, with some musings about how we cope with death in a post-religious society (keep in mind, this is England, not evangelic
Yet. Still. And finally, yet still? In this slim volume, Barnes has amassed musings on death from a quarry of the world’s greatest thinkers and added his own. Despite the brainpower, energy and spin expended all that’s known is it defies preparation and is inescapable. The 'yet still' being death’s rhetorical rattle.

Acerbic in tone with a smattering of poignant anecdotes, one gets the impression that this is a personal dialog and accounting; he, too, comes haltingly to the conclusion that there
John Alt
In reading this book I was reminded of William Hazlitt's essay, "On the Fear of Death." Hazlitt observes that we have no fear of the time before we were born, so why should we be afraid of a time after death? For Julian Barnes it is not that simple. Against Hazlitt's quite rational argument there is that old animal at the bottom of the brain that does not know reason. Emotion comes first; reason second. We feel and only after that might we be able to summon the will to over-ride the feeling.

Most readers I see below were disappointed by this book, though I'm not sure why; its tone, style, erudition, and recursive consideration of ideas seems pretty much in keeping with his body of work. It's a Julian Barnes book, first and foremost, and it feels like his work in just about every particular. I don't share his fear of death (at least, not yet), so those musings resonate much less with me than do his portraits of living with those around him who are dying, and about the perfidy of memo ...more

I need a new shelf. Started but discarded.

This is the first Barnes I've read (and that is more or less all of them) and haven't liked. It may not be autobiographical, but it is horribly close and he just isn't interesting. He isn't, his brother isn't. Nor are his parents or grandparents. Even worse, it is wordily pompous, which I gather is why the French like him so much.

Death itself may be an interesting subject (or may not) but what isn't interesting is other people's obsessions, includin
Razvan Zamfirescu
Spicuiri din recenzia finala care se gaseste pe blogul meu


Rememorând experienţele din preajma morţii celor dragi, Barnes ajunge, inevitabil, să vorbească (poate cam prea mult) despre familia sa, despre ce îl deranja şi ce nu, despre momente desprinse parcă dintr-un jurnal al scriitorului, dintr-unul al citorului şi, uneori, dintr-unul al ruşinii. Deşi comparaţiile la tot pasul făcute între propria familie şi cea a lui Jules Renard, ale cărui memorii sun
Anneliese Tirry
Het boek is uit en het was helemaal anders dan ik dacht dat het zou zijn.
Verwachtte ik dat ik een boek zou lezen met geruststellende gedachten in, met berusting en acceptatie, dan ben ik totaal verkeerd uitgekomen.
De auteur confronteert ons met vele gedachten over het levenseinde, zijn gedachten, gedachten van zijn favoriete schrijvers en mengt deze met een soort van memoire over zijn eigen leven, dat van zijn ouders, zelfs deels dat van zijn grootouders.
Veel van de dingen die ik las zijn herke
Обожавам го. Изящен език и тънък хумор :)
Книгата е много по-мъдра отколкото бих могла да възприема на първо четене. С много литературни и философски препратки, освежени от тънкия хумор на Барнс.
Не мога да си представя как може да се говори толкова леко за нещо "тежко" като смъртта. Но ето че той успява.
Rene Stein
O román nejde. O rodinné vzpomínky také ne. O smrt ano.
Barnes píšící o smrti, o různém přístupu k smrti, o čistě osobní i o kolektivní celoevropské thanatofobii. "Vážné" téma smrti je vyvažováno výsměšným šklebem, který je leitmotivem celé knihy, že smrt nemusí být to nejhorší, co nás v životě potká. Možná k zoufalství stačí i život sám a když ne, tak námi nevybraní příbuzní a ve stejném průsečíku času se nachomýtající známí nám záminku k zoufání určitě rádi poskytnou.

Konfrontace teoretických i
It’s probably appropriate to tackle a “review” of Julian Barnes’ Nothing to Be Frightened Of in the same spirit in which it is written – personal and slightly rambling, if always on target (I can only hope for that last bit). My wife had read it in the midst of my friend Anthony’s long decline and suggested I would like it – 'like,' here, being a catchall word that might mean “find it valuable” or “insightful” or that I would appreciate another’s thoughts on the matter of death. That is, after a ...more
It takes 185 pages (in my edition) but Julian Barnes finally manages to define what “life” means to him: “a span of consciousness during which certain things happen, some predictable, others not; where certain patterns repeat themselves, where the operations of chance and what we may as well call for the moment free will interact; where children on the whole grow up to bury their parents, and become parents in their turn; where, if we are lucky, we find someone to love, and with them a way to li ...more
Lyn Elliott
Wise, humorous, moving reflections on life, death, memory and families. I especially enjoyed the conversations Barnes has with his philosopher brother as each pushes the other into considering/reconsidering these mighty questions and then focusing on the family. 'it's what she would have wanted', for instance. Something that relatives of a dead woman or man say as they plan details of a funeral, dispose of household items or build patterns of family memories. But how do we know what anyone 'woul ...more
Modernilor nu le place să moară. Nu-i vorba că i-ar fi plăcut cuiva, vreodată. Însă lumea modernă, mai mult decât în orice altă perioadă a istoriei, face tot ce poate să uite că Moartea există, că oamenii mor, că tu, sau eu, sau cei pe care-i iubim vor muri vreodată. Într-un eseu din 1955, sociologul englez Geoffrey Gorer a dat cea mai potrivită denumire pentru această atitudine modernă de negare a inevitabilului sfârșit al fiecăruia dintre noi: pornografia morții. Tabu-ul victorian al sexului ș ...more
Meredith Watts
Julian Barnes is erudite and witty about death and his own professed fear of death. He is sly and insightful about failures of memory, and often quotes his older brother about their differing memories of their early lives. He really does go on and on about his parents, who aren't, I'm afraid, very interesting. I enjoyed the many literary and philosophical digressions and am grateful to know where "appointment in Samarra" comes from, and what it means.

I'm not sure he completely convinced me that
This book is medicine for the fear of death. Candid, honest, fearless. Truly, there is NOTHING to be frightened of.


I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him. That’s what I say when the question is put.

What will it be like when Christianity joins the list of dead religions, and is taught in universities as part of the folklore syllabus; when blasphemy becomes not legal or illegal but simply impossible?

The fury of the resurrected atheist: that would be something worth seeing.

‘Perhaps the fact
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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
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“When we fall in love, we hope - both egotistically and altruistically - that we shall be finally, truly seen: judged and approved. Of course, love does not always bring approval: being seen may just as well lead to a thumbs-down and a season in hell.” 95 likes
“Memory is identity....You are what you have done; what you have done is in your memory; what you remember defines who you are; when you forget your life you cease to be, even before your death.” 44 likes
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