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Books  >>  Biography

Julian Barnes

Levels of Life

Julian Barnes Levels Of Life
$10.46 New
 
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Series:

Vintage International

Biographical note:

Julian Barnes was born in Leicester and moved to London in 1946. He is the author of twenty books, and in 2011 won the Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. He met Pat Kavanagh in 1978.
 
Pat Kavanagh was born in South Africa and moved to London in 1964. She worked in advertising and then, for forty years, as a literary agent. She married Julian Barnes in 1979, and died in 2008.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

ON THE LEVEL
 
You put together two things that have not been put together before; and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Pilâtre de Rozier, the first man to ascend in a fire balloon, also planned to be the first to fly the Channel from France to England. To this end he constructed a new kind of aerostat, with a hydrogen balloon on top, to give greater lift, and a fire balloon beneath, to give better control. He put these two things together, and on the 15th of June 1785, when the winds seemed favourable, he made his ascent from the Pas-de-Calais. The brave new contraption rose swiftly, but before it had even reached the coastline, flame appeared at the top of the hydrogen balloon, and the whole, hopeful aerostat, now looking to one observer like a heavenly gas lamp, fell to earth, killing both pilot and co-pilot.
 
You put together two people who have not been put together before; and sometimes the world is changed, sometimes not. They may crash and burn, or burn and crash. But sometimes, something new is made, and then the world is changed. Together, in that first exaltation, that first roaring sense of uplift, they are greater than their two separate selves. Together, they see further, and they see more clearly.
 
Of course, love may not be evenly matched; perhaps it rarely is. To put it another way: how did those besieged Parisians of 1870-71 get replies to their letters? You can fly a balloon out from the Place St.-Pierre and assume it will land somewhere useful; but you can hardly expect the winds, however patriotic, to blow it back to Montmartre on a return flight. Various stratagems were proposed: for example, placing the return correspondence in large metal globes and floating them downstream into the city, there to be caught in nets. Pigeon post was a more obvious idea, and a Batignolles pigeon fancier put his dovecote at the authorities’ disposal: a basket of birds might be flown out with each siege balloon, and return bearing letters. But compare the freight capacity of a balloon and a pigeon, and imagine the weight of disappointment. According to Nadar, the solution came from an engineer who worked in sugar manufacture. Letters intended for Paris were to be written in a clear hand, on one side of the paper, with the recipient’s address at the top. Then, at the collecting station, hundreds of them would be laid side by side on a large screen and photographed. The image would be micrographically reduced, flown into Paris by carrier pigeon, and enlarged back to readable size. The revived letters were then put into envelopes and delivered to their addressees. It was better than nothing; indeed, it was a technical triumph. But imagine a pair of lovers, one able to write privately and at length on both sides of the page, and hide the tenderest words in an envelope; the other constrained by brevity and the knowledge that private feelings might be publicly inspected by photographers and postmen. Although—isn’t that how love sometimes feels, and works?
 
Sarah Bernhardt was photographed by Nadar—first the father, later the son—throughout her life. Her first session took place when she was about twenty, at the time Félix Tournachon was also involved in another tumultuous, if briefer, career:“Deeply stirring....The metaphoric intensity of what has come before gives Barnes's account of his grief a fierce and fiery kind of momentum.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“Stunning. . . . Levels of Life is deceptively compact but takes us deep. It is as intimate a book as Barnes has ever written, but its beauty—and art—comes from elegant restraint [and] a perspective never seen before.” —Ellen Kanner, The Miami Herald

“A moving tribute to a love and lifelong partner, an examination of grief that personalizes universal emotion effortlessly and beautifully.” —Alexandra Primiani, New York Daily News

“Barnes has distilled his grief—refined and compacted it—and the result is a powerful dirge and slender but shapely work of art.” —Adam Begley, The Daily Beast
 
“A powerful meditation on things that lift us up—literally, as in hot air balloons, and emotionally, as in love—and things that bring us crashing to earth.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR
“Searching, angry, plangent and beautiful. . . . Only a writer of Barnes's stature could sublimate personal pain into something artistically exquisite.” —Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“A tour-de-force masterwork. . . a stunningly intricate book that combines history, fiction and memoir in a hybrid form you're unlikely to forget.” —Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“As eloquent as it is soul-shuddering. . . A book about the death of a spouse that is unlike any other—book or spouse—and thus illuminates the singularity as well as the commonality of grieving.” —Kirkus (starred review) 
 
“A precisely composed, often deeply moving hybrid of non-fiction, 'fabulation,' and straightforward reminiscence and contemplation.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The Times Literary Supplement
 
“A remarkable narrative that is as raw in its emotion as it is characteristically elegant in its execution.” – Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

“A book whose slimness belies its throbbing emotional power.” – Leyla Sanai, The Independent

“A luminous meditation on love and grief.” —Jane Shlling, The Telegraph
 
“At times unbearably sad, but it is also exquisite: a paean of love, and on love, and a book unexpectedly full of life. . . . In time [this] may come to be viewed as the hardest test and finest vindication of [Barnes's] literary powers.” —Rosemary Goring, The Herald (Scotland)

“Both a supremely crafted artefact and a desolating guidebook to the land of loss.” —John Carey, The Sunday Times

“Spare and beautiful...a book of rare intimacy and honesty about love and grief.  To read it is a privilege.  To have written it is astonishing.” —Ruth Scurr, The Times

“This complex, precise and beautiful book hits you in the solar plexus and leaves you gasping for air. . . . It's an unrestrained, affecting piece of writing, raw and honest and more truthful for its dignity and artistry, every word resonant with its particular pitch. It defies objectivity. Anyone who has loved and suffered loss, or just suffered, should read this book, and re-read it, and re-read it.” —Martin Fletcher, The Independent

“As the slim volume progresses, something not quite central to your vision builds, so that by the end you are blindsided by a quiet devastation. . . . Levels of Life would seem to pull off the impossible: to recreate, on the page, what it is like to be alive in the world.” —Emma Brockes, The Guardian<


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