Thursday, 3 February 2011

A History of the World in 10½ Chapters

by Julian Barnes
  1. The incredible (although more believable than the Bible’s version) testimony of a Noah’s Ark stowaway, Anobium domesticum.
  2. The uninvited visitors board the Mediterranean cruise ship, with shocking consequences.
  3. Hitherto unpublished bizarre 16th-century legal case of Mamirolle villagers vs the very same A. domesticum.
  4. Young woman survives the nuclear holocaust on board a boat somewhere off the Australian coast, in company of two cats.
  5. The story that inspired Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, followed by the story of Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa.
  6. In 1840, two Irish ladies undertake an expedition to Mount Ararat.
  7. Author’s encounters with Lawrence Beesley, a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic; the legend of James Bartley, 19th-century Jonah; the 1939 voyage of St. Louis.
  8. A film crew goes into the Venezuelan jungle to re-enact the adventures of two Jesuit priests there couple of centuries ago, with almost as disastrous a result.
    (A beautiful, rambling meditation on the nature of love.)
  1. An American astronaut takes a few steps on the moon and hears the voice of God instructing him, guess what, to find Noah’s Ark.
  2. The author wakes up and spends some years or millennia in paradise, polishing his golf skills.

I wouldn’t call it a novel; nor does it provide a history of the world. Who needs a history of the world anyway? A masterful book worthy of Borges and Lem, this one.

That was the grapefruit of my dreams, I don’t mind telling you.

Like an emperor, I pushed aside the gutted hull and lifted a silver dome from a crested plate. Of course I knew what would be underneath. Three sliced of grilled streaky bacon with the gristle and rind removed, the crispy fat all glowing like a bonfire. Two eggs, fried, the yolk looking milky because the fat had been properly spooned over it in the cooking, and the outer edges of the white trailing off into filigree gold braid. A grilled tomato I can only describe in terms of what it wasn’t. It wasn’t a collapsing cup of stalk, pips, fibre and red water, it was something compact, sliceable, cooked equally all the way through, and tasting — yes, this is the thing I remember — tasting of tomato. The sausage: again, not a tube of lukewarm horsemeat stuffed into a French letter, but dark umber and succulent . . . a . . . a sausage, that’s the only word for it. All the others, the ones I’d thought I’d enjoyed in my previous life, were merely practicing to be like this; they’d been auditioning — and they wouldn’t get the part, either.
A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters

No comments:

Post a Comment