Julian Barnes


Julian Patrick Barnes (born 19 January 1946) is an English writer. He won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 with The Sense of an Ending, having been shortlisted three times previously with Flaubert's Parrot, England, England, and Arthur & George. Barnes has also written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh (having married Pat Kavanagh).[1] In addition to novels, Barnes has published collections of essays and short stories.

Julian Barnes
Barnes in 2019
Barnes in 2019
Born (1946-01-19) 19 January 1946 (age 78)
Leicester, England
Pen nameDan Kavanagh (crime fiction), Edward Pygge
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
GenreNovels, short stories, essays, memoirs
Literary movementPostmodernism
Notable awardsPrix Femina
Commandeur of L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Man Booker Prize
Jerusalem Prize
(m. 1979; died 2008)

In 2004 he became a Commandeur of L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His honours also include the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He was awarded the 2021 Jerusalem Prize.[2]

Early life


Barnes was born in Leicester, although his family moved to the outer suburbs of London six weeks afterwards.[3][4] Both of his parents were French teachers.[3][1] He has said that his support for Leicester City Football Club was, aged four or five, "a sentimental way of hanging on" to his home city.[4] At the age of 10, Barnes was told by his mother that he had "too much imagination".[3] In 1956, the family moved to Northwood, Middlesex, the "Metroland" of his first novel.[3] He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964. He then went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied modern languages.[5] After graduation, he worked for three years as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement.[5] He then worked as a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesman and the New Review.[5] During his time at the New Statesman, Barnes suffered from debilitating shyness, saying: "When there were weekly meetings I would be paralysed into silence, and was thought of as the mute member of staff".[3] From 1979 to 1986 he worked as a television critic, first for the New Statesman and then for The Observer.[5]



His first novel, Metroland, is the story of Christopher, a young man from the London suburbs who travels to Paris as a student, finally returning to London. The novel deals with themes of idealism and sexual fidelity, and has the three-part structure that is a common recurrence in Barnes's work. After reading the novel, Barnes's mother complained about the book's "bombardment" of filth.[3] His second novel Before She Met Me features a darker narrative, a story of revenge by a jealous historian who becomes obsessed with his second wife's past. Barnes's breakthrough novel Flaubert's Parrot departed from the traditional linear structure of his previous novels and featured a fragmentary biographical style story of an elderly doctor, Geoffrey Braithwaite, who focuses obsessively on the life of Gustave Flaubert. About Flaubert, Barnes has said, "he's the writer whose words I most carefully tend to weigh, who I think has spoken the most truth about writing."[6] Flaubert's Parrot was published to great acclaim, especially in France, and it helped establish Barnes as a serious literary figure when the novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.[7]

Staring at the Sun followed in 1986, another ambitious novel about a woman growing to maturity in post-war England and dealing with issues of love, truth and mortality. In 1989, Barnes published A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, which is also a non-linear novel, and uses a variety of writing styles to call into question the perceived notions of human history and knowledge itself.

During the 1980s, Barnes wrote four crime novels under the name "Dan Kavanagh" (Barnes had recently married the literary agent Pat Kavanagh).[8] The novels centred around the main character Duffy, a former police detective turned security advisor. Duffy is notable because he represents one of Britain's first bisexual male detectives. Barnes has said the use of a pseudonym is "liberating in that you could indulge any fantasies of violence you might have".[9] While Metroland, also published in 1980, took Barnes eight years to write, Duffy and the rest of the Kavanagh novels typically took less than two weeks each to put to paper—an experiment to test "what it would be like writing as fast as I possibly could in a concentrated way".[10]

During the 1990s, Barnes wrote several additional novels and works of journalism. In 1991, he published Talking It Over, a contemporary love triangle, in which the three characters take turns to talk to the reader, reflecting on common events. This was followed by a sequel published in 2000 called Love, etc, which revisited the characters ten years on.[11] Barnes's novel The Porcupine (1992) again deals with a historical theme as it depicts the trial of Stoyo Petkanov, the former leader of a collapsed Communist country in Eastern Europe, as he stands trial for crimes against his country. England, England (1998) is a humorous novel that explores the idea of national identity as the entrepreneur Sir Jack Pitman creates a theme park on the Isle of Wight that resembles some of the tourist spots of England. Barnes is a keen Francophile, and his 1996 book Cross Channel is a collection of 10 stories charting Britain's relationship with France.[1] He also returned to the topic of France in Something to Declare, a collection of essays on French subjects.

In 2003, Barnes undertook a rare acting role as the voice of Georges Simenon in a BBC Radio 4 series of adaptations of Inspector Maigret stories.[12] Arthur & George (2005), a fictional account of a true crime that was investigated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, launched Barnes's career into the more popular mainstream. It was the first of his novels to be featured on the New York Times bestsellers list for Hardback Fiction.

Barnes's eleventh novel, The Sense of an Ending, published by Jonathan Cape, was released on 4 August 2011.[13] In October of that year, the book was awarded the Man Booker Prize.[14] The judges took 31 minutes to decide the winner and head judge, Stella Rimington, said The Sense of an Ending was a "beautifully written book" and the panel thought it "spoke to humankind in the 21st Century."[14][15] The Sense of an Ending also won the Europese Literatuurprijs and was on the New York Times Bestseller list for several weeks.

In 2013 Barnes published Levels of Life. The first section of the work gives a history of early ballooning and aerial photography, describing the work of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon. The second part is a short story about Fred Burnaby and the French actor Sarah Bernhardt, both also balloonists. The third part is an essay discussing Barnes's grief over the death of his wife, Pat Kavanagh (although she is not named): "You put together two people who have not been put together before . . . Sometimes it works, and something new is made, and the world is changed . . . I was thirty-two when we met, sixty-two when she died. The heart of my life; the life of my heart."[16] In The Guardian, Blake Morrison said of the third section, "Its resonance comes from all it doesn't say, as well as what it does; from the depth of love we infer from the desert of grief."[17]

In 2013, Barnes took on the British government over its "mass closure of public libraries", Britain's "slip down the world league table for literacy" and its "ideological worship of the market – as quasi-religious as nature-worship – and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor".[18]

Personal life


Barnes's brother, Jonathan Barnes, is a philosopher specialising in ancient philosophy. Julian Barnes is a patron of the human rights organisation Freedom from Torture, for which he has sponsored several fundraising events, and Dignity in Dying, a campaign group for assisted dying.[19] He has lived in Tufnell Park, north London, since 1983. Barnes is an agnostic.[20] Barnes married Pat Kavanagh, a literary agent, in 1979. She died on 20 October 2008 of a brain tumour. Barnes wrote about his grief over his wife's death in an essay in his book, Levels of Life.[17][1]

Awards and honours


List of works







  • Letters from London (Picador, London, 1995) – journalism from The New Yorker, ISBN 0-330-34116-2
  • Something to Declare (2002) – essays
  • The Pedant in the Kitchen (2003) – journalism on cooking
  • Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008) – memoir
  • Through the Window (2012) – 17 essays and a short story
  • A Life with Books (2012) - booklet
  • Levels of Life (2013) - memoir
  • Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art (October, 2015) – essays
  • The Man in the Red Coat (2020)

Works as Dan Kavanagh



  • Duffy (1980)
  • Fiddle City (1981)
  • Putting the Boot In (1985)
  • Going to the Dogs (1987)

Short story

  • "The 50p Santa. A Duffy Detective Story" (1985)[28]

As translator

  • Alphonse Daudet: In The Land of Pain (2002), translation of Daudet's La Doulou
  • Volker Kriegel: The Truth About Dogs (1988), translation of Kriegel's Kleine Hunde-Kunde [1]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Allardice, Lisa (26 October 2019). "Julian Barnes: 'Do you expect Europe to cut us a good deal? It's so childish". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  2. ^ "The Jerusalem Prize 2021 WINNER". Jbookforum.com. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Summerscale, Kate (1 March 2008). "Julian Barnes: Life as he knows it". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  4. ^ a b Denis Campbell. "My Team: Julian Barnes on Leicester City F.C." The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "Julian Barnes Website: Biography of Julian Barnes". Julianbarnes.com. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  6. ^ McGrath, Patrick. "Julian Barnes" Archived 15 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, BOMB Magazine Fall, 1987. Retrieved on 24 October 2012.
  7. ^ "The Booker Prize 1984 | The Booker Prizes". thebookerprizes.com. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  8. ^ Sutherland, John (17 July 1980). "Pseud's Corner". London Review of Books. 02 (14). ISSN 0260-9592.
  9. ^ Dugdale, John (4 April 2014). "Julian Barnes's pseudonymous detective novels stay under cover". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  10. ^ The Fiction of Julian Barnes by Vanessa Guignery, ISBN 1-4039-9060-3, p. 29, 2006
  11. ^ "Julian Barnes: Love, etc". www.julianbarnes.com. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  12. ^ Simon, O'Hagan (1 December 2002). "Julian Barnes: I may not like it much. But I still live here". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  13. ^ Ellwood, Pip (14 August 2011). "Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending". Entertainment Focus. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  14. ^ a b Masters, Tim (18 October 2011). "Man Booker Prize won by Julian Barnes at fourth attempt". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  15. ^ Singh, Anita (18 October 2011). "Julian Barnes wins the 2011 Man Booker Prize". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  16. ^ Bhattacharya, Soumya (25 April 2013). "Julian Barnes: "I do believe in grudge-bearing"". The New Statesman. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  17. ^ a b Morrison, Blake (10 April 2013). "Levels of Life by Julian Barnes- review". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  18. ^ Flood, Alison (12 April 2013). "Julian Barnes criticises Britain's 'philistine' approach to arts". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Patrons". Dignityindying.org.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  20. ^ Keillor, Garrison (3 October 2008). "Dying of the Light". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Julian Barnes, an atheist turned agnostic
  21. ^ ""La France est mon second berceau": Biographie de Julian Barnes". Le Figaro (in French). 19 January 1946. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
  22. ^ "Österreichische StaatspreisträgerInnen für Europäische Literatur". Archived from the original on 29 May 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  23. ^ "Siegfried Lenz Preis 2016 geht an Julian Barnes". Siegfriedlenz.stiftung.org. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  24. ^ "Julian Barnes: Biography". www.julianbarnes.com. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  25. ^ "2021 Winner – The Jerusalem International Book Forum". Jbookforum.com. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  26. ^ "Julian Barnes: Biography". www.julianbarnes.com. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  27. ^ "2022 Arts Preview: The Year Ahead in Books". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  28. ^ page 28, The Fiction of Julian Barnes by Vanessa Guignery, ISBN 1-4039-9060-3, publ. 2006

Further reading

  • Peter Childs, Julian Barnes (Contemporary British Novelists), Manchester University Press (2011)
  • Sebastian Groes & Peter Childs, eds. Julian Barnes (Contemporary Critical Perspectives), Continuum (2011)
  • Vanessa Guignery & Ryan Roberts, eds. Conversations with Julian Barnes, University Press of Mississippi (2009)
  • Vanessa Guignery, The Fiction of Julian Barnes: A Reader's Guide to Essential Criticism, Palgrave Macmillan (2006)
  • Matthew Pateman, Julian Barnes: Writers and Their Work, Northcote House, (2002)
  • Bruce Sesto, Language, History, And Metanarrative in the Fiction of Julian Barnes, Peter Lang (2001)
  • Merritt Moseley, Understanding Julian Barnes, University of South Carolina Press (1997)
  • Official Website of Julian Barnes
  • Official Website of Dan Kavanagh (pseudonym)
  • Julian Barnes at British Council: Literature
  • Publisher's Website – includes facts about Barnes and Arthur & George
  • The Oxonian Review on Levels of Life[usurped]
  • Interview by the Oxonian Review (2008)[usurped]
  • Guardian Books "Author Page" – with profile and links to further articles.
  • Julian Barnes at the Internet Book List
  • Interview on BBC HARDtalk Extra programme – broadcast on 22 September 2006
  • Audio interview from Writing Lab on OpenLearn
  • "Julian Barnes: Life as he knows it"
  • "Julian Barnes, The Art of Fiction No. 165". The Paris Review (Interview). No. 157. Interviewed by Shusha Guppy. Winter 2000.
  • "Julian Barnes Interview". Bookworm (Interview). Interviewed by Michael Silverblatt. KCRW. March 1992.
  • Portraits of Julian Barnes at the National Portrait Gallery, London