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A Writer Who Uses Death As His Protagonist

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Published: June 22, 2004

By Julian Barnes
241 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $22.95.

…The doddering old soldier in ”Hygiene” looks forward to his once-
a-year rendezvous with a call girl — whom he has been seeing for
more than two decades — only to discover that she has recently died
and that he never knew her real name. And in ”Appetite,” a
senescent doctor, who was a control freak in his younger days, is
reduced in his dotage to sputtering obscenities at his wife, who
likes to torture him by reading aloud recipes filled with just the
sorts of vague lists of ingredients and directions that most grate
against his love of precision.

Even art seems to offer few consolations to its creators. The
Turgenev character in ”The Revival” is more preoccupied by his
failures in love than by what he achieved or didn’t achieve with his
work. And the Sibelius-like composer in ”The Silence,” who has been
suffering from writer’s block for nearly 30 years, complains about
”the infinite wretchedness of the artist’s lot”: ‘’so much work,
talent and courage, and then everything is over,” he thinks. ”To be
misunderstood, and then to be forgotten, such is the artist’s fate.”

Written by morituri

August 24th, 2006 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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