Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

A Sense of Mnemonic Odyssey: A Perspective on Julian Barnes's the Sense of an Ending

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

A Sense of Mnemonic Odyssey: A Perspective on Julian Barnes's the Sense of an Ending

Article excerpt

The paper offers a comprehensive critical perspective on Julian Patrick Barnes's The Sense of an Ending, that deservedly won the much coveted 2011 Commonwealth Man Booker Prize for fiction. Besides offering a piercing analysis of the text in relation to a mnemonic odyssey of Tony, the protagonist, this original piece of work presents a scholarly discourse on the rigorous exploration of 'peripeteia', a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortunes. The paper examines the nature of English character that exhibits conservativeness and lack of seriousness. It also gives new insights that would engage the existing perceptions on Julian Barnes especially in the creation of prose having a visceral power that clinically and precisely tracks in intensifying the protagonist's re-immersion and also wading into a life as into the sea. It even competently addresses a new interaction between the global and the local writers like Ted Hughes, Henry James, and the French writers like Gustave Flaubert.

Julian Patrick Barnes's The Sense of an Ending1, a dexterously plotted and boldly conceived novel deservedly won the much coveted 2011 Commonwealth Man Booker Prize for fiction, though Bames once cleverly expressed his dismissive attitude toward it (prize), referring to it as a lottery akin to 'posh bingo' (Brown, 2011). The eleventh novel of this "most French of British novelists" (Craven, 2011), though not thick, deals ingeniously with Tony, the protagonist and his mnemonic odyssey which accounts for who the British are and what they have become. Like Ian McEwan's novel On Chesil Beach, it also presents lucidly the themes of youthful sex, inhibition, class, regret and unreliable recollection. It also talks about the narrator who continues to have a constant re-immersion into life as into the sea. Naturally, the protagonist is involved in spending a lot of time on living, besides indulging in the act of revisiting later part of his life and challenging his core beliefs about causation, responsibility and the very chain of events that make up the sense of self. He gives us appropriate resonance to what is unknown and unspoken-lost to memory, a sort of a mystery that is deeply embedded as the most archaic of memories which Deirdre Donahue calls "pretentious philosophical musings" (Donahue, 2011).

It is pertinent to record Barnes's views on fiction in general and a great novel in particular. He rightly observes: "Fiction wants to tell all stories, in all their contrariness, contradiction and irre solvability" (Bames, 2008). He unchangingly holds a set view on the tenets of a great book:

I think a great book-leaving aside other qualities such as narrative power, characterization, style, and so on-is a book that describes the world in a way that has not been done before; and that is recognized by those who read it as telling newtmths-about society orthe way in which emotional lives are led, or both-such truths having not been previously available, certainly not from official records or government documents, or from journalism or television (Guppy, 2000).

In a similar tone, the protagonist in The Sense of an Ending rightly comments on tme literature thus: "Real literature was about psychological, emotional and social tmth as demonstrated by the actions and reflections of its protagonists; the novel was about character developed overtime" (p. 15). Bames seems to incorporate this dictum in The Sense of an Ending, a sensitive and memorable novel. On the Blurb, it is rightly said: "This is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past" (Blurb of the Novel). Anita Brookner, an authority on Bames, appropriately observes that this new novel

is about the fortunes of a group of school friends... and about the origin of one particular memory through a long and apparently uneventful life towards an explanation that leaves traces of unease that are difficult to dismiss (Brookner, 2011).

The novel that bears the title of a famous critical work by Frank Kermode (1968), "tells the beautiful, shapely lies which enclose hard, exact tmth. …

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