Tag Archives: Julian Barnes

The power of memories that never leave

[On  the Russian composer Dimitr Shostakovitch }

 He doubted he could stop drinking, whatever the doctors advised; he could not stop hearing; and worst of all, he could not stop remembering. He so wished that the memory could be disengaged at will, like putting a car into neutral. That was what chauffeurs used to do, either at the top of a hill, or when they had reached maximum speed: they would coast to save petrol. But he could never do that with his memory. His brain was stubborn at giving house-room to his failings, his humiliations, his self-disgust, his bad decisions. He would like to remember only the things he chose: music, Tanya, Nina, his parents, true and reliable friends, Galya playing with the pig, Maxim imitating a Bulgarian policeman, a beautiful goal, laughter, joy, the love of his young wife. He did remember all those things, but they were often overlaid and intertwined with everything he wanted not to remember. And this impurity, this corruption of memory, tormented him.’

Julian Barnes: The Noise of Time, p168

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The most beautiful blue

Van Gogh’s description of the clothes of peasants in and around Nuenen:

‘The people here instinctively wear the most beautiful blue that I’ve ever seen. It’s coarse linen that they weave themselves, warp black, weft blue, which creates a black and blue striped pattern. When it’s faded and slightly discoloured by wind and weather, it’s an infinitely calm, subtle shade that specifically brings out the flesh colours. In short, blue enough to react with all the colours in which there are hidden orange elements, and faded enough not to clash.’

Julian Barnes, Selfie with Sunflowers: The letters of Van Gogh (from here) 


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Fiction and life

Fiction and life are different: with fiction, the writer does the hard work for us. Fictional characters are easier to “see”, given a competent novelist – and a competent reader. They are placed at a certain distance, moved this way and that, posed to catch the light, turned to reveal their depth; irony, that infrared camera for filming in the dark, shows them when they are not aware that anyone is looking. But life is different. The better you know someone, the less well you often see them (and the less well they can be transferred into fiction.) They may be so close as to be out of focus, and there is no operating novelist to dispel the blur. Julian Barnes, Nothing To Be Frightened Of

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Filed under the unknown, the writing process