A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

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This is, in short, a complete, unsettling, and frequently exhilarating vision of the world, starting with the voyage of Noah's ark and ending with a sneak preview of heaven!
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A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

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Overview

This is, in short, a complete, unsettling, and frequently exhilarating vision of the world, starting with the voyage of Noah's ark and ending with a sneak preview of heaven!
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

NY Review of Books
Barnes is an accomplished equilibrist; a reader who appreciates being made to work for his sense of balance will find in A History of the World special pleasures, special perils.
New York Times Books of the Century
The many stories here are given their...humor, by an undercurrent of gentle, self-reflective irony.
New York Review of Books
Barnes is an accomplished equilibrist; a reader who appreciates being made to work for his sense of balance will find in A History of the World special pleasures, special perils.
New York Times Books of the Century
The maNew York stories here are given their...humor, by an undercurrent of gentle, self-reflective iroNew York.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Admirers of Barnes are accustomed to thoroughly unorthodox approaches to the novel, and his latest, while brilliantly entertaining, certainly strains the limits of the genre.
Library Journal
A revisionist view of Noah's Ark, told by the stowaway woodworm. A chilling account of terrorists hijacking a cruise ship. A court case in 16th-century France in which the woodworm stand accused. A desperate woman's attempt to escape radioactive fallout on a raft. An acute analysis of Gericault's ``Scene of Shipwreck.'' The search of a 19th-century Englishwoman and of a contemporary American astronaut for Noah's Ark. An actor's increasingly desperate letters to his silent lover. A thoughtful meditation on the novelist's responsibility regarding love. These and other stories make up Barnes's witty and sometimes acerbic retelling of the history of the world. The stories are connected, if only tangentially, which is precisely Barnes' point: historians may tell us that ``there was a pattern,'' but history is ``just voices echoing in the dark....strange links, impertinent connections.'' Fascinating reading. -- Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal
A revisionist view of Noah's Ark, told by the stowaway woodworm. A chilling account of terrorists hijacking a cruise ship. A court case in 16th-century France in which the woodworm stand accused. A desperate woman's attempt to escape radioactive fallout on a raft. An acute analysis of Gericault's ``Scene of Shipwreck.'' The search of a 19th-century Englishwoman and of a contemporary American astronaut for Noah's Ark. An actor's increasingly desperate letters to his silent lover. A thoughtful meditation on the novelist's responsibility regarding love. These and other stories make up Barnes's witty and sometimes acerbic retelling of the history of the world. The stories are connected, if only tangentially, which is precisely Barnes' point: historians may tell us that ``there was a pattern,'' but history is ``just voices echoing in the dark....strange links, impertinent connections.'' Fascinating reading. -- Barbara Hoffert
Joyce Carol Oates
Mr. Barnes's concerns throughout are abstract and philosophical, though his tone is unpretentious....Given the principle of repetition, of permutations and combinations, it is inevitable that some of Mr. Barnes's prose pieces are more successful than others....''A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters'' demystifies its subjects and renders them almost ordinary: ''Myth will become reality, however sceptical we might be.'' In so doing it deconstructs, perhaps even mocks, its own ambition. If the reader does not come to the book with certain of the expectations of prose fiction - that ideas will be dramatized with such narrative momentum that forgets they are ''ideas,'' and that complete worlds will be evoked by way of prose, not merely discussed - this is a playful, witty and entertaining gathering of conjectures by a man to whom ideas are quite clearly crucial: a quintessential humanist, it would seem, of the pre-post-modernist species. -- New York Times
NY Review of Books
Barnes is an accomplished equilibrist; a reader who appreciates being made to work for his sense of balance will find in A History of the World special pleasures, special perils.
New York Times Books of the Century
The many stories here are given their...humor, by an undercurrent of gentle, self-reflective irony.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789626344750
  • Publisher: Naxos Audiobooks
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 11 CDs, 14 hours
  • Pages: 9
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Leicester in 1946, Julian Barnes is the author of nine novels, a book of stories, and a collection of essays. He has won both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina, and in 1988 was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in London.

Biography

Julian Barnes once told London's Observer that he writes fiction "to tell beautiful, exact, and well-constructed lies which enclose hard and shimmering truths." Indeed, this is what Barnes does, sometimes spiking his lies with fact -- most notably in Flaubert's Parrot, the novel that became his breakthrough book. The story of a retired doctor obsessed with the French author, it combines a literary detective story with a character study of its detective, including facts about Flaubert along the way.

Before Flaubert's Parrot propelled him into the company of Ian McEwan and Martin Amis in British authordom, Barnes had been moderately successful with the novels Metroland (which later became the 1997 movie starring Emily Watson and Christian Bale) and Before She Met Me. He was also known to Brits as a newspaper TV critic. Parrot and Barnes's subsequent "Letters from London" in The New Yorker helped expand the author's Stateside following.

"A lot of novelists set up a kind of franchise, and turn out a familiar product," friend and fellow author Jay McInerney told the Guardian in 2000. "But what I like about Jules's work is that he's like an entrepreneur who starts up a new company every time out." Among other ambitious themes, Barnes has explored the collapse of communism (The Porcupine) the Disneyfication of culture (England, England), the simple dynamics of relationships (Talking It Over and its sequel, Love, Etc.), and the connections between art, religion, and death (The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters).

Barnes has also produced collections of essays, a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, and a family memoir (Nothing to Be Frightened Of) that also serves as a meditation on mortality.

Good To Know

In 2000, a cybersquatting professor acquired the Internet rights to julianbarnes.com and several other authors' domain names; Barnes later won his name back, and the domain is now an informational site run by a fan with Barnes's permission. Barnes had protested the professor's actions, accusing him of usurpation; but his opponent might have responded by quoting from Barnes's own (albeit satirical) England, England: "Indeed, wasn't there something old-fashioned about the whole concept of ownership, or rather its acquisition by formal contract, in which title is received in exchange for consideration given?.... It would have been unfair to call Sir Jack Pitman a barbarian, though some did; but there stirred within him a longing to revisit pre-classical, pre-bureaucratic methods of acquiring ownership. Methods such as theft, conquest and pillage, for example."

Barnes wrote four mystery novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, all of which are now out of print; the novels starred Duffy, a bisexual ex–police officer. Kavanagh's bio read in part: "Having devoted his adolescence to truancy, venery and petty theft, he left home at seventeen and signed on as a deckhand on a Liberian tanker." Kavanagh also happens to be the last name of Barnes's agent and wife, Pat.

Barnes was a deputy literary editor under Martin Amis at the New Statesman from 1980–82 and was also a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary. Amis and Barnes later had a falling-out that became fodder for the press when Amis wrote about it in his memoir, Experience; Barnes is mum on the subject, but the disagreement arose when Amis defected from Barnes's wife to another agent.

Barnes has a cameo in the film Bridget Jones's Diary as himself, but in a lesser role than he has in Helen Fielding's book. In the book, Bridget is flummoxed upon encountering Barnes and embarrasses herself; but the more recognizable Salman Rushdie was substituted for Barnes in the film version.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Dan Kavanagh
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 19, 1946
    2. Place of Birth:
      Leicester, England
    1. Education:
      Degree in modern languages from Magdalen College, Oxford, 1968

Table of Contents

Introduction; Text; Glossary; Activities

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2007

    History of the world? Not exactly.

    I began reading this book with the hope of learning more about the world and its history. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn that my reading of choice was simply a compilation of short stories whose historical significance was nowhere to be found (With the exception of chapter 5, which describes a French shipwreck). I was very disappointed that the title was so misleading and further unimpressed with the quality of the narrative. Each chapter had a different point to prove and a different story to share but rather than being an educational piece, it was a fictional compilation. The first chapter of the book is told from the point of view of a woodworm and its experience on Noah¿s Ark. Being one of the many species which weren¿t selected to go on the Ark, it tells of all the failures of the whole Noah's Ark scheme. The story begins with the fact that not all animals could make it on time to the Ark and basically ends with the fact that Noah was a hateful alcoholic (unlike what he has been described as in the bible). The second chapter of the book is about a highjacking that occurs on a boat. The act is done by a group of Arabs in an attempt to fight back against their enemy countries. One of the passengers, a television character turned guest speaker, becomes the messenger between the hostages and the terrorists. This story explores the choices that he was forced to make. Up until now, the book had been interesting and intriguing but chapter three is where I personally got thrown off. This chapter is about a trial in a French court during the 1500s in which woodworms were being tried for destroying a church and its pope's throne. Although the arguments presented in the case were interesting, the reason for the trial and the fact that it was taken seriously immediately made me think that the book I was reading was ridiculous. The next chapter is about a woman with mental problems who runs away from her husband on his sailboat. The whole story is about her experiences that she shared with her cat while she sailed on the boat. Having creepy dreams about men in suits talking to her, she spends the entire time on the boat trying to make the men in suits go away in her dreams. From this short summary of the first four chapters one can see that the title that it has 'A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters' does not apply to the stories in this book. I feel like all these stories have nothing to do with the history of the world and even though some may have some psychological aspects of humans.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2006

    Trouble with Woodworm

    If you have a post-modern itch in need of scratching, this is the place to start. Barnes brilliantly re-tells the history of the world in 10 1/2 neatly organised chapters. The prose is both fast paced with plenty of the wonderfully dry wit the British possess. On top of being exquisitely written, Barnes' explication of a Gericault painting in chapter 5 is nothing short of brilliant. This book is almost impossible to put down once you pick it up. My only complaint is that there isn't more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2000

    'History' is entertaining!

    A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters is an excellent book. Although slightly apprehensive about the first chapter in its religious content, further reading uncovered an excellent novel. At first glance the book appears to be a series of unconnected short stories. On closer inspection ties are found between each chapter, mainly focusing around the appearance of woodworm, or allusions to Noah's Ark. Despite the rather abrupt changes between these chapters, the new characters become quickly familiar and the book flows very well. The events looked at in the novel seem to follow the pattern or history repeating itself; 'the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce'. As a result, some stories overlap, looking at the same occurrence from different periods in time. By no means purely historical as the title may suggest, 'A History' was very entertaining novel which I would recommend to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2013

    Brilliant modern literature

    I read this for the first time back in 11th grade. It was (and still is) a delightful and thought-provoking book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    Tom Robbins Meets Kurt Vonnegut

    I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that this is not a novel, but rather a collection of short stories. I am not a fan of short stories, so my review should be taken with a grain of salt. I was impressed with many of the themes in the chapters of this book. I especially enjoyed the last, entitled 'The Dream', as it explores humans' dissatisfaction with being happy. However, there were also many chapters that can only be described as tedious. This tedium is compounded by the disjointed feel of the entire work, which is only thinly veiled by an attempt to include the woodworm in every plot line. In the end, I was glad I muddled through, if for no other reason, my favorite chapter was the last. I am intrigued enough by Julian Barnes writing style and content that I will be attempting an actual novel of his, but this one I should have passed up.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2000

    Begins well but then disappoints

    'A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters' opens to a delightful interpretation of Noah's Ark, but from that chapter onwards offers a less than satisfying read. The title is clever as it offers the reader 'A' history as opposed to 'the' history of the world, and although Barnes does use this to his advantage, the examples of history are sometimes abstract from the reader, resulting in the reader to finding the novel a lot harder to digest. Many of the chapters can be linked to issues of religion, history, and love, and the points and ideas raised by Barnes about these are sometimes provoking. However, the novel lacks fluency as its format of each chapter having its own story can be unsettling, despite the presence of certain reoccuring ideas and themes. The 'parenthesis' does again offer interesting ideas into love and history, and throughout the novel causes the reader to consider the social and personal values of these attributes. Overall the novel encourages the reader to evaluate certain aspects of their lives, but in a less than satisfactory way. It is not easy to remain interested in the book continuously, but the novel redeems itself but its provoking remarks and statements

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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