Nothing to Be Frightened Of

Publisher: Vintage Canada
"I don’t believe in God, but I miss him." So begins Julian Barnes’s brilliant new book that is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the writer Jules Renard. Barnes also draws poignant portraits of the last days of his parents, recalled with great detail, affection and exasperation. Other examples he takes up include writers, "most of them dead and quite a few of them French," as well as some composers, for good measure.

The grace with which Barnes weaves together all of these threads makes the experience of reading the book nothing less than exhilarating. Although he cautions us that "this is not my autobiography," the book nonetheless reveals much about Barnes the man and the novelist: how he thinks and how he writes and how he lives. At once deadly serious and dazzlingly playful, Nothing to Be Frightened Of is a wise, funny and constantly surprising tour of the human condition.

From the Hardcover edition.


I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him. That’s what I say when the question is put. I asked my brother, who has taught philosophy at Oxford, Geneva and the Sorbonne, what he thought of such a statement, without revealing that it was my own. He replied with a single word: ‘Soppy.’

The person...
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1. Nothing to Be Frightened Of opens with an arresting sentence: "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him" [p. 3]. How is it possible to both miss God and not believe in him? Is Julian Barnes's brother, Jonathan, right in regarding such a sentiment as "soppy"?

2. How does Barnes manage to make a 244-page...

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A Globe and Mail Best Book 
A New York Times Notable Book

“This brilliant meditation on death, a family memoir, and an argument with God (whom the author doesn’t believe in, but misses) lays Barnes bare like no other previous work.” Zsuzsi Gartner, The Globe and Mail
“Because his style has always been exceedingly irreverent and anything but lugubrious, he makes this horrible of all horrible subjects a light, amusing diversion almost.... Whether you believe spending a little regular time getting used to the idea that one day there will be no eyeballs in that skull of yours or you wish to avoid the unpleasant truth for now, picking up Barnes’s death ramblings might be as good a way to spend some of the time you have left as any.” Edmonton Journal
“A double-jointed performance in which Barnes lets his sharp, obsessive mind wander in search of some kind of meaning. . . . If he doesn’t come up with any answers here, he asks a lot of provocative and fascinating questions. Call him Mr. Meaningful.” Ottawa Citizen

“Barnes is neither depressed, nor depressing. He is honest and fantastically unconventional in discussing what is a matter of curiosity and concern to everyone who expects one day to die.... Death is inescapable and, in some manner to be revealed only at a later date, is approaching. If Barnes doesn’t make the prospect more palatable, he certainly makes it more stimulating.” The Gazette