Sunday, May 14, 2017

"The Sense of an Ending", comment redux

This book by Julian Barnes was read here five years ago and a comment was written on September, 19th, 2012.  Writing with some caution about the Man Booker Prize winner of that year, the post was focused on the positive and routinely noted the fine writing.

Read again now, and only minimally remembered from earlier, the book is almost solely about memory, and the stigma that the passage of time can place on events and "learning the new emotions that time brings".  Barnes continues, "Discovering, for example, that as witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been."

Barnes writes about the process of forgetting parts of the past, and whether that is much of an issue or just a focus of those who are older that exaggerates the concern. He is not writing about dementia or Alzheimer's, but simply mislaid facts that can resurface in an hour, or a day,or late at night.  He notes that in the midst of a concern about memory, "your brain, your memory, may surprise you.  As if it's saying:  Don't  imagine you can rely on some comforting process of gradual decline --- life's much more complicated than that."

While there is a somewhat linear story line of relationships, the look at memory, aging, and understanding of the past is the theme and the story seems to not be the purpose of the book in any important way. Then at the end, improbably, the unexpected resolution of the book's relationship puzzle puts the story line back in control.  The ending not only underscores the lack of memory's insight but also opens up the possibility that more understanding is possible.

In the prior comment on "The Sense of an Ending" this was hinted at, and during this second reading now five years later, it at first seemed to diminish the impact of a major part of the book.  Stepping back once again, the point may be that those late night examinations of events may yet lead to something.


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