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Cross Channel: Stories
     

Cross Channel: Stories

by Julian Barnes
 

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In his first collection of short stories, Barnes explores the narrow body of water containing the vast sea of prejudice and misapprehension which lies between England and France with acuity humor, and compassion. For whether Barnes's English characters come to France as conquerors or hostages, laborers, athletes, or aesthetes, what they discover, alongside rich

Overview

In his first collection of short stories, Barnes explores the narrow body of water containing the vast sea of prejudice and misapprehension which lies between England and France with acuity humor, and compassion. For whether Barnes's English characters come to France as conquerors or hostages, laborers, athletes, or aesthetes, what they discover, alongside rich food and barbarous sexual and religious practices, is their own ineradicable Englishness. The ten stories that make up Cross Channel introduce us to a plethora of intriguing, original, and sometimes ill-fated characters. Elegantly conceived and seductively written, Cross Channel is further evidence of Barnes's wizardry.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barnes is a witty, playful and ironic writer at the top of his form...Cross Channel is in the best sense an artful book."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"Fluently written, finely observed...delicately patterned."
—New York Times

James Marcus
To label this book a short-story collection is to considerably shortchange it. True, Cross Channel does consist of ten discrete narratives, each of which could stand on its own. In the end, though, this superb book functions as a single, unified work about the relationship of England with its nearest neighbor, France. As Barnes makes clear, the citizens of both countries have tended to regard each other with scornful fascination, and the author has ransacked three centuries of history to document this cross-channel rapport. In "Dragons," for example, British mercenaries descend upon a 17th-century village in southern France to forcibly convert the population to Catholicism. A hundred years later, when "Melons" takes place, the two nations still haven't kissed and made up: an international cricket tournament is hastily scuttled when the French Revolution begins. This tradition of mutual incomprehension continues clear through to 2015. At that point, the aging protagonist of "Tunnel" travels to France by train, recalling dozens of earlier trips across the channel. His ruminations contain the germs of all the preceding stories -- a typical bit of Barnesian trickery -- and they reveal, too, what the English finally have to gain from their French counterparts: "It was unhealthy to be idealistic about your own country, since the least clarity of vision led swiftly to disenchantment. Other countries therefore existed to supply the idealism: they were a version of pastoral." The existence of some Other Country, then, is not merely a headache, an escape, an enticement, but also an imaginative necessity. -- Salon

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679767558
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1997
Series:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
1,314,542
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.66(d)

Meet the Author

Julian Barnes was born in Leicester in 1946 and educated in London and Oxford. He worked as a lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary, then as a journalist for the New Statesman, the Sunday Times and the Observer. He is the author of eight novels, a collection of essays, a book of short stories, and is the first Englishman to have won both the Prix Medicis and the Prix Femina. In 1988 he was made a Chevalier and in 1995 he became an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, England
Date of Birth:
January 19, 1946
Place of Birth:
Leicester, England
Education:
Degree in modern languages from Magdalen College, Oxford, 1968

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