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A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters [Hardcover]

Julian Barnes
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book by Barnes, Julian

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, funny, and worth every minute... Jan. 20 2004
I am an avid reader with no devotion to any particular genre or author. I read "History" on a recommendation from a friend whose taste I trusted, and I was so pleased that I've read it twice over again in a matter of 3 weeks (more or less - I read certain chapters multiple times, others only once). Even if you have no shortage of self-awareness and literary competence, this book will make you feel noticeably improved in those areas. I couldn't be happier that this book found its way to me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant... Oct. 22 2000
By Zentao
Not that reviews are generally easy to write but attempting to package "History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" is next to impossible. Barnes plays with the fundamental ideas of post-modernism in this work: subjectivity versus objectivity.
We are treated to the woodworms' view of history as well as some rather gruesome aspects behind a rather famous painting. All aspects point out that one's perspective of the "truth" and "what really happened" might not even be a valid idea, let alone how much to trust any statments on such matters.
Barnes' style is quiet and he lets you form your own ideas. The book is quite enjoyable to read and I have gone through my copy several times over the years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Barnes works are mesmerizing. March 11 2002
I'm not quite sure exactly what universe it is that Julien Barnes inhabits, but I must say that it is an unusually interesting place to visit. Having been blown away by another of the authors books-Flaubert's Parrot-I decided to try another of his novels to see if the substance and style of that books could be repeated.
It turns out repetition is not one of Mr. Barnes apparent life goals. In The History of the World in 10  Chapters Mr. Barnes once again blows me away in a manner absolutely at odds with, but just as mesmerizing, as Flaubert's Parrot.
If Barnes has one unifying aspect to his novels it's that he can take the arcane and use it as a window to the world. In Flaubert's Parrot, the oddity of the parrot became a metaphor for the oddity that was Flaubert. In History of the World, Mr..Barnes latches onto an array of arcane and esoteric symbols to both analyze an historical epoch while concomitantly questioning the validity of historical analysis, within various arenas, itself. It's a nifty trick, an enlightening exercise, an entertaining expedition of epic proportions.
One of the particularly interesting elements of Barnes style is his ability to tackle "heavy" topics in a straightforward, serious yet light-handed manner that allows for the flow of the ideas, the flow of the text, and the flow of the story (or, in this case, stories) to march on without getting bogged down.
The man possesses a highly inventive and creative mind, a very off beat view of the world, an admirable craftsmanship with language and a very dry, very British tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. It all adds up to a splendid reading experience.
This is a truly novel novel!
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5.0 out of 5 stars More than the sum of its parts... Oct. 31 2001
I respectfully and totally disagree with the misinformed reader who gave this book only 2 stars. I'd list it as one of the great books of the twentieth century for many reasons. It appears at first glance to be made up of disconnected stories, histories, journal entries, and fables. But what is so masterful in the writing style is the way that, with a little work from the reader, these disparate elements reorganize themselves into an organic whole. I find many qualities of Barnes' work "musical', perhaps none more so than his singular use of leitmotifs. Words, phrases and themes echo from one chapter to the next, linking ideas, characters and symbols to the very end of the book. What leitmotifs? Some examples: Noah, the Ark and the Flood; historiography; shipwrecks; pilgrimage; G-d as destroyer; the eventual and inevitable corruption/destruction of all art and history.
Barnes IS in love with his own prose and loves to play with the reader to prove his own erudition, but never entirely without a point. I have several favorites among the chapters, particularly the first and last. In both, the identity of the narrator is crucial to the overall structure of the book. Both address "the oldest story in the world." Both are mildly to wildly comic in degree and both address head-on why we go on, why we remain dedicated to the struggles of this life (and, perhaps, the next.) From proto-Biblical narrative, to art criticism, to pseudo-history, to parable we're led on to the secret of it all. I thought it was just a jim-dandy read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A witty glimpse at human history Aug. 2 2001
From the enormous and chaotic tapestry of human history, Barnes opens ten windows and sees what's there. Unifying and conducting the thread are several and unlikely subjects: woodworm, Noah's ark, survival, love, and Man's folly. The chapters are not arranged in any specifical order, chronological or any other. Each one is the snapshot of a particular, relevant or irrelevant moment in mankind's long, convoluted and often tragical history. But each tiny story is told with a great sense of humor. The humor of someone with affection but without delusions about us and our human nature.
Noah's Ark travel told by an unlikely passenger; the reaction of a person in front of a terroris attack; the panic of nuclear destruction; religious fanaticism taken to an extreme; etc, each brief moment tells us something about how we are.
Oh, and love. The half chapter is a marvelous dissertation on love as a permanent, ambivalent force in history. A masterpiece of monologue, it displays the wit and wisdom of this valuable author. I don't think it exaggerated to say that Barnes's work is a demonstration of literature's always renewable capabilities. His is a literature firmly rooted in the Western tradition, yet possessed with a fresh and humorous look at us humans. Highly recommendable.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wit, A Wag, A Way With Wrods
Read this simply for the sheer joy of being in the hads of someone who plays with words with ease. This book is at moments, laugh out loud funny, it also has moments where you need... Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2011 by Dave and Joe
4.0 out of 5 stars everything I expected it to be...
Julian Barnes uses every chapter to touch very interesting beliefs and stories. At the beginning it seems like the chapters are disconnected from one another, but thinking of it... Read more
Published on May 21 2002 by Space
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sardonic, Original, And Mischievous Mind On A Tear
A stowaway that narrates the trip of Noah's Ark, simple animals tried for blasphemy in the 16th Century, an incredible stream of thought on language's three very famous words, all... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2000 by taking a rest
5.0 out of 5 stars Separating the clean from the unclean
Barnes' brilliant History of the World offers little comfort to the reader even though it is bitingly satirical in tone. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2000 by shannu
5.0 out of 5 stars History Repeating
"History is simply the propaganda of the victors."
"History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second
time as farce. Read more
Published on July 6 2000 by Matthew A. Goodin
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it more than once to do it justice....
I studied this book as an A level text, and at first I hated it - I found it to be a confusing disjointed book about woodworm and arks with an extremely unsatisfactory ending... Read more
Published on June 13 2000 by tina campanella
4.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag of mixed blessings
First off let me say that I've only read one other of Barnes' novels (Flaubert's Parrot, which I enjoyed) so I can't really say I'm in a position to really assess what it is Barnes... Read more
Published on May 6 2000 by Bruce Kendall
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant for train journeys
I studied this book for the purposes of school coursework last year. This was in the midst of shuttling by train across the length and breadth of England and Scotland looking at... Read more
Published on March 8 2000 by Mark Swinton
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