Alan Wightman's Reviews > A History of the World in 10½ Chapters

A History of the World in 10½  Chapters by Julian Barnes
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Jan 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favourite-books
Read from January 28 to February 08, 2011


Barnes presents his fictionalised history of the world in ten numbered chapters and one unnumbered chapter.

It starts slowly, the stories in each chapters are separate and the links are clear, indeed an early criticism I had is that Barnes is making the links a little too obvious.

It goes along nicely, if tragically, with many boat trips ending in tragedy, until the unnumbered chapter called Parenthesis between the 8th and the 9th chapters. Here Barnes seems to put fiction completely aside and addresses us with a monologue on the tricky subject of love and what it is supposed to do. I had read this book 12 years previous and one of the few specifics I could recall was this chapter, that "my love does not, cannot make her happy; my love can only release in her the capacity to be happy". It is here that the book becomes profound and the chapters seem to mesh more. In the closing chapters, a theme is accessible. That there are many things in the history of this world that people have been led into believing that they need and want. Most of these including, but presumably not limited to, love heaven and Noah's Ark, are not as great as we would wish it. Things are much more complex. But there is hope.

Here are some quotes

p232 My love does not, cannot make her happy; my love can only release in her the capacity to be happy.
p233/4 Have you ever talked so well, needed less sleep, returned to sex so eagerly, as when you were first in love?
p236 Perhaps love is essential because it's unnecessary.
p246 When love fails, we should blame the history of the world.
p309 After a while, getting what you want all the time is very close to not getting what you want all the time

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