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Something to Declare: Essays on France
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Something to Declare: Essays on France

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  292 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Julian Barnes's long and passionate relationship with la belle France began more than forty years ago, and in these essays on the country and the culture he combines a keen appreciation, a seemingly infinite sphere of reference, and prose as stylish as classic haute couture.

Barnes's vision of France-"The Land Without Brussels Sprouts"-embraces its vanishing peasantry; its
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Knopf (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
Nick Jones
Jul 10, 2012 Nick Jones rated it liked it
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
Feb 23, 2011 jennifer rated it liked it
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
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
Nick Phillips
I've now read three works by Julian Barnes, have enjoyed all of them and will definitely read others in the future. Having said that I found this collection of essays rather disjointed. If I was interested in the topic then the chapter, such as the ones about French music, French cinema and the Tour de France were really engaging and left me wanting to know more. The elements when Barnes was talking specifically about his own personal experiences with France were also expertly handled and drew m ...more
Aug 19, 2009 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, lit-criticism
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
Hope N
These are not your usual English-person-writes-about-France essays. There's are no silly stories about trying to buy a baguette, or frustrations about getting work papers or touching moments with a French peasant who gives you advice about how best to renovate your house in Provence. This is a book written by someone who loves French culture (and most of all Flaubert) and is eager to plunge into the fascinating details.

Barnes writing is intelligent, well-structured and he's picked subjects he's
Paul Servini
Jun 30, 2015 Paul Servini rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
A book of essays by a good writer about French culture - what more could you want. Well, unfortunately what I'd want was what the title and the blurb promised. The first few essays lived up to its promise. Then came one on Flaubert and I was delighted. Until I realised that all the rest of the essays were to relate to Flaubert in some way or another. Not a problem in itself, except that this narrowing of focus proved, in my opinion, too restrictive. A pity, because there's no doubt that Barbes k ...more
Oct 28, 2008 Meg rated it liked it
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
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
Paul Duggan
Mar 07, 2013 Paul Duggan rated it liked it
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.
Aug 15, 2007 Bronwen rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 22, 2008 Keeley rated it liked it  ·  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.
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.
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.
Sundarraj Kaushik
Apr 16, 2012 Sundarraj Kaushik rated it it was ok
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.
May 16, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 01, 2012 Michaela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
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.
Oct 25, 2012 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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"!
Jun 04, 2015 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
overly self-indulgent on Flaubert.
I liked the chapters on Jacques Brel, Edith Wharton & Henry James, and Elizabeth David.
Apr 16, 2015 Pedro rated it really liked it
amazing stuff about Flaubert here. You must read those essays if you're into the fat hateful master.
May 27, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-lit
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.
Marta Pawlowski
Jul 06, 2015 Marta Pawlowski rated it liked it
Shelves: english
Amos Kovacs
Oct 02, 2011 Amos Kovacs rated it liked it
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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 about Julian Barnes...

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