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JULIAN BARNES QUOTES

English writer (1946- )

Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

I don't believe in God, but I miss him.

JULIAN BARNES, Conversations with Julian Barnes

[Literature is] a process of producing grand, beautiful, well-ordered lies that tell more truth than any assemblage of facts.

JULIAN BARNES, The Paris Review, winter 2000

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

A pier is a disappointed bridge.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

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.

JULIAN BARNES, Nothing to Be Frightened Of

Love is just a system for getting someone to call you Darling after sex.

JULIAN BARNES, Talking It Over

Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

In order to write the novel I’m committed to, I have to pretend that it’s not only separate from everything I’ve written before, but also separate from anything anyone in the history of the universe has written. This is a grotesque delusion and a crass vanity, but also a creative necessity.

JULIAN BARNES, The Paris Review, winter 2000

They are scarcely adult, some men: they wish women to understand them, and to that end they tell them all their secrets; and then, when they are properly understood, they hate their women for understanding them.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

I think a great book—leaving aside other qualities such as narrative power, characterization, style, and so on—is a book that describes the world in a way that has not been done before; and that is recognized by those who read it as telling new truths.

JULIAN BARNES, The Paris Review, winter 2000

We live in time - it holds us and molds us - but I never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing - until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature: only then can he see clearly.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

No reason at all why one should go on writing just for the sake of it. I think it is very important to stop when you haven’t got anything to say.

JULIAN BARNES, The Paris Review, winter 2000

When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life’s subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic.

JULIAN BARNES, A Life with Books

Irony - The modern mode: either the devil’s mark or the snorkel of sanity.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

Yes, of course we were pretentious -- what else is youth for?

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

Women were brought up to believe that men were the answer. They weren't. They weren't even one of the questions.

JULIAN BARNES, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

How do you turn catastrophe into art? Nowadays the process is automatic. A nuclear plant explodes? We'll have a play on the London stage within a year. A President is assissinated? You can have the book or the film or the filmed book or booked film. War? Send in the novelists. A series of gruesome murders? Listen for the tramp of the poets. We have to understand it, of course, this catastrophe; to understand it, we have to imagine it, so we need the imaginative arts. But we also need to justify it and forgive it, this catastrophe, however minimally. Why did it happen, this mad act of Nature, this crazed human moment? Well, at least it produced art. Perhaps, in the end, that's what catastrophe is for.

JULIAN BARNES, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

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.

JULIAN BARNES, Nothing to Be Frightened Of

Happiness lies in the imagination, not the act. Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending

To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness -- though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.

JULIAN BARNES, Flaubert's Parrot

Is recycling to do with global warming? Need you ask? Well, I only ask because we've been recycling for twenty years or so, and no one was talking about global warming back then.

JULIAN BARNES, Pulse

Opera cuts to the chase--as death does. An art which seeks, more obviously than any other form, to break your heart.

JULIAN BARNES, Levels of Life

He had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me; he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense.

JULIAN BARNES, The Sense of an Ending


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