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“I don’t believe in God but I miss Him”: Religion
and Nostalgia in the Work of Julian Barnes


WOJCIECH DRAG
Wrocław University


Abstract
This essay examines the significance of religion in Staring at the Sun (1986), A History of the World in 10 Chapters (1989), England, England (1998) and Nothing to Be Frightened of (2008). The emphasis of the discussion is on the significance and purposefulness of religious belief in an overtly post-metaphysical world. In all Barnes’s texts one can trace a paradoxical conflict between two contending attitudes towards religion. On the one hand, religion is portrayed from the historical perspective as a cruel tool of oppression or is simply dismissed as an obsolete fable. On the other hand, it is perceived as a belief system which promised ultimate meaning, fought off nothingness and was necessary to sustain the illusion of a harmonious universe. Ultimately, Barnes’s attitude towards his loss of religion hovers between postmodern celebration and modernist nostalgia.

Keywords
: Religion, Christianity, post-religious, classic art, nostalgia, Englishness, childhood, death

 
 

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