Nothing to be Frightened Of, By Julian Barnes

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The Independent Culture

The title arises from a two-decades-old entry in Barnes's diary. As a phrase, he notes, it is usually said fast but when said slowly, "The word that is most true, most exact, most filled with meaning, is the word 'nothing'."

Barnes is, of course, writing about death, though his elegant rumination is equally concerned with the physical decay that customarily precedes this climax. His rich memoir is eagle-eyed, mordant, unflinching and often amusing.

Again and again, Barnes articulates feelings that you have felt fleetingly or vaguely. For example, he doesn't believe in God but finds himself "provoked by atheistic absolutism". Unexpectedly, this is the most enjoyable of all Barnes's books.

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