Happy 70, Julian Barnes!

Thanks to The Paris Review for the reminder that today is the seventieth birthday of one of our truly great novelists. Julian Barnes has been called (I forget by whom, maybe me) the best English writer of French novels. I’ll leave you to puzzle that one out. Like so many readers, I discovered him through Flaubert’s Parrot (1984), a really funny, heartbreaking novel that at times seems more like a bundle of essays and observations by a grieving physician. Since then, he has written many more novels and short stories and essays, including A History of the World in 10 1/2 ChaptersArthur and George, and The Sense of an Ending, which finally won him the Booker Prize. I started inflicting my infatuation with Flaubert’s Parrot on students when I split our old Twentieth-Century British Literature course in two somewhere around 1990 to create Modern and Contemporary/Postmodern (the name was changed to protect the innocent) courses. I think it is the only novel never to fall out of the syllabus, although Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day might share the distinction. If I were still teaching, it would still be there.