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Something to Declare Paperback – Mar 26 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada (March 26 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679312099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679312093
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #614,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
"And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" -- Acts 2:8 (NKJV)

Julian Barnes has a great appreciation for all things French, from the rural life there, to the language, to the manifestations of Frenchness itself in popular culture, and, of course, literature . . . most notably Gustave Flaubert and Madame Bovary. The collection of stories is more about Flaubert than about anything else. If you are a fan of Madame Bovary, you'll have some fun. If you already know the book and Flaubert well, these essays aren't really necessary.

My favorite sections were about the Tour de France and Mr. Barnes' subtle commentaries about the French language, to which he brings a nuanced knowledge that added a lot to my understanding of his observations.

Should you read this collection? The Lemon Table is a better choice for most Barnes fans. But if you are a true Francophile (of which I am one), be sure to read this collection as well. If you are a Francophobe, the essays won't change your mind.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful collection of pieces Jan. 23 2003
By E. Hawkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Barnes's collection falls into two halves. The first is a collection of pieces that might be said to have a French theme: a review and appreciation of Edith Wharton's account of a car journey taken through France, a piece of French songsters of the sixties, a very entertaining look at the perils of the Tour de France. The second half is nearly all given over to Flaubert, Barnes's obsession. The essays on the great writer are fascinating, especially those centered around his correspondence. Barnes's love for the writer and the man is contagious. I had no great enthusiasm for Flaubert, despite having loved Barnes's 'Flaubert's Parrot', but since reading this book I have read 'Madame Bovary' with a great deal of pleasure and have begun looking into the correspondence. All the essays are scrupulously and stylishly written and are worth reading for the prose alone.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Personal Francophilia May 21 2006
By Sirin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Julian Barnes is probably the British writer most associated with French influence over his literature. Most of his novels are influenced by France in one way or another, especially his acclaimed 1984 masterpiece, Flaubert's Parrot.

In the introduction to these essays, Barnes traces his personal affiliation with France. From nervous childhood holidays with his parents, to his immersion in French language and culture while studying Languages at Oxford, ending with a 1997 trip across the Channel to deliver the ashes of his parents. He cheerfully admits a bias towards French culture over his native Anglo-Saxon and this fact permeates the essays here.

The first part of the book features a range of essays on obscure French singers, the film director Francois Truffaut, Elizabeth David's cookery writing and, best of all, a lenghty piece on drug taking in the Tour de France.

In the second half of the book, the emphasis shifts to Flaubert, Barnes's self professed literary idol. The essays span the full range of Flaubert's life and his associations: his biographers, his mistresses, his relationship with other writers and film versions of Madame Bovary. Flaubert was given extensive fictional treatment in 'Flaubert's Parrot' and these pieces perhaps read like a reworking of the research notes for that novel.

Unlike most wannabe British continentals who think that to become au fait with European Culture one just has to eat at The River Cafe and take the occasional jaunt to Paris or Rome, Barnes has clearly read many pages of French literature and watched many metres of film. His depth and range of knowledge is impressive and the style is (as with all Barnes's writings) erudite, crisp and piercingly intelligent.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Reflections on French Connections, Popular Culture, and Flaubert April 10 2012
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" -- Acts 2:8 (NKJV)

Julian Barnes has a great appreciation for all things French, from the rural life there, to the language, to the manifestations of Frenchness itself in popular culture, and, of course, literature . . . most notably Gustave Flaubert and Madame Bovary. The collection of stories is more about Flaubert than about anything else. If you are a fan of Madame Bovary, you'll have some fun. If you already know the book and Flaubert well, these essays aren't really necessary.

My favorite sections were about the Tour de France and Mr. Barnes' subtle commentaries about the French language, to which he brings a nuanced knowledge that added a lot to my understanding of his observations.

Should you read this collection? The Lemon Table is a better choice for most Barnes fans. But if you are a true Francophile (of which I am one), be sure to read this collection as well. If you are a Francophobe, the essays won't change your mind.
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
It's not about France Dec 27 2002
By Foxworthy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Something to Declare" is a clever title for a book about travel abroad; but, beyond its opening pages, that's not what this book is about. "Essays on France" is an equally misleading subtitle, for the book's erudite essays (beyond the opening chapter) are not on France but on a narrow selection of French writers and related movers and shakers, and one fictional character: Madame Bovary. After a fast-paced, dazzling opening sequence, hilariously describing the teen-aged Barnes' first encounters across the English Channel, we slow down to pick through some highlights in the lives of some of the top French authors, poets, filmmakers and other cultural icons, eventually easing to a crawl through exhaustive detail regarding the author's main interest, Flaubert and his world. If Madame Bovary is your cup of tea, you may enjoy steeping yourself further in Barnes. For me it was just too much.
8 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Not What the Title Promises, and Often Excruciating Aug. 9 2004
By Whoseblues - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The title of this book, as you can see, is "Something To Declare: Essays on France and French Culture." The blurbs on the back of my trade paperback version enthusiastically support this title. However, only a quarter of the pages of this book are devoted to a discussion of "France and French culture." The rest are spent on the very specific topics of particular French artists and authors, most particularly Flaubert and things related to Flaubert. Given that artists and authors often make a point of setting themselves apart from their cultural milieu (especially most if not all of the ones Barnes writes about) and are often, at a minimum, a bit out of touch with the reality of the world around them, writings on these folks can hardly be deemed to reflect "French culture," as promised by the title. Barnes is, of course, perfectly entitled to publish a book composed of these elements; however, it would be nice if the title and blurbs made it clearer that that is what he is doing, for those of us poor unenlightened souls who do not go into a swoon every time we see or hear the name Flaubert -- for those of us who, in fact, would be perfectly happy for the rest of our lives if we could avoid anything more than infrequent passing references to Flaubert. Simply put, the title does not fairly represent the major part of what is in the book. If you are looking for a book on France and French culture, you can do much, much better with your reading time and money. Moreover, the essays that are not general in nature assume an intimate, detailed knowledge of Flaubert and his writing. If you do not have such an intimate, ready-at-your-fingertips, working knowledge, you will often not know what Barnes is referring to and will consequently have no hope of understanding the point he is trying to make, even if you hang in there and read the whole thing, as I did. These essays are intended for an audience of initiates; reading them in a book like this that purports to address a much more general topic will just leave you feeling like an outsider to the club. Oh, and it will be even worse for you if you fail to hold the belief that "Madame Bovary" is worth intense worship as one of the greatest things to ever have come along, both before and after the advent of sliced bread.

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