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Beneath a Bombers’ Moon: Barnes and Belief

 

PETER CHILDS
University of Gloucestershire


Abstract

An atheist whose books are peppered with reflections and meditations on death, religion and last things, Julian Barnes has mixed feelings about belief. He sees courage as ‘staring at the sun’ of truth but knows that we are all susceptible to and reliant upon irrational beliefs. This essay analyses how in his writing Barnes comments repeatedly on metaphysics, mortality, and monotheistic belief but also explores the attractions of various other appealing grand narratives from political idealism to high art to romantic love despite their likely failure to deliver answers or happiness. While deciding that love represents the closest we may come to truth, Barnes distances himself from all certainties, seeking to be fearful of nothing truthful while deeply frightened of the truth of nothingness.

 

Keywords: Julian Barnes, contemporary British fiction, religion in fiction, the novel and belief, Nothing to Be Frightened of, Staring at the Sun, A History of the World in 10 Chapters
 
 

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