Monday, January 04, 2016

Julian Barnes: master of fiction with whole worlds living in his prose

The award-winning author of Flaubert’s Parrot will turn 70 this year and his remarkable new novel about Shostakovich is out this month. His admirers know to expect the unexpected

Julian Barnes: his new novel tells the story of Shostakovich – in its own way. Photograph: Richard Saker/Rex Features
In 1989, in the closing pages of his novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, Julian Barnes imagined what heaven might be like. Before his amiable narrator sussed that an eternity of happiness – the perfect breakfast sausage, the return of his favourite corduroy trousers, endless exceptional golf scorecards and an audience with Judy Garland – might eventually pall, he experienced something really worth getting excited about. “They’re a good team,” he wrote of Leicester City, “a very good team sometimes, yet they never seem to win the big ones.” In heaven though, not only did Leicester win the FA Cup, but their entire team was selected to play for England, whereupon they sailed to World Cup victory.

Life might not quite be imitating art, but Leicester City are certainly riding high; whether they’ll top the table when Barnes, who supports them because he was born in Leicester and stuck with them even though his family subsequently moved to London, celebrates his 70th birthday later this month is likely to be a close-run thing. But the author will have other distractions aside from the fancy footwork of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez – for January also sees the publication of his 12th novel, The Noise of Time, his first full-length work of fiction since 2011’s Man Booker prize-winning The Sense of an Ending.

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