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Julian Barnes

While reading Julian Barnes's latest novel, I recalled the day forty years ago when Philippe Petit spent an hour on a cable slung between the tops of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. The image of that minuscule figure dancing back and forth between those massive buildings was a perfect metaphor for the life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–7 ...

‘Let’s get this death thing straight’, declares Julian Barnes in his recently published memoir-cum-meditation Nothing to Be Frightened Of. He sets out to confront mortality, the titular ‘nothing’, but manages only to peer at it through parted fingers. He takes short peeks, which calls to mind the title of his death-haunted novel Staring at the Sun (1986).

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