Julian Barnes’s ‘A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters’

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Barnes’s title is provocative; it announces that this is not in fact a history, but a novel. The novel (or short-story collection) questions the possibility of giving a straight account of history by asserting that history is always partial, and always a story. On the other hand, it clings closely to certain historical facts – notably the turning back home of a ship of Jewish German refugees by America in 1939. Ultimately, it is an anti-history in the service of history – it both respects facts, and urges us to be canny in responding to the stories which are told about them.

 

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