Treasured Excerpts From Julian Barnes’ The Sense Of An Ending

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent. We live in time, it bounds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn’t it? But if we can’t understand time, can’t grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history – even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?

We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was it said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn’t act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it’s not convenient – it’s not useful – to believe this; it doesn’t help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it.

It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.

How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.

Let me just briefly add that this book is deep on so many levels. And I am not saying deep the way most people say deep; the way they juxtapose interesting for deep. No. I’m not saying that it was uninteresting either. I’m just saying it was more than a novel in a way that made you wonder whether It was a novel at all. I want to do a review but I am almost certain that that will be a deservice to the depth of the book. But I don’t think I care—I will do it anyway. To ease myself of the aftereffect of haven read it.

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