Title: Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story
Author: Julian Barnes
Genre: Literary Criticism, Essays, Non-Fiction
It is not easy to write about books and other authors for a writer. It needs to be unbiased and at the same time say what he or she wants to. I am in awe of writers who manage to write on books. Reading books on books is a different experience altogether. As a reader, I have enjoyed a lot of books on this theme – from Alberto Manguel to Anne Fadiman; these books have also led me to read some more authors who I normally would not have read. This is the primary reason I love books about books. At the same time, I love the critique most of the time, which enables me to compare my reading experience with that of the author’s. I was fortunate enough to have read another book – a collection of literary essays, “Through the Window – Seventeen Essays” by Julian Barnes.
Barnes’s book in seventeen essays covers almost all territory – he speaks of literature, travel, translators, and poets and also throws in a story dedicated to Ernest Hemingway. For me even reading the preface led to a smile and a tear. I love when books can evoke such emotions in a reader. They almost connect, even if they are of the non-fiction genre, just as this one does.
I got into the book from the very first essay on Penelope Fitzgerald, whose works I love and have reread a lot of times. Barnes has this uncanny sense of connecting to the writer’s works and looking at it without prejudice. He breathes the book and the writer and at the same time remains aloof when it comes to commenting or writing about a work. This is seen throughout the book.
These essays however are not new. They have been previously published. However, I was very happen that they found their place in one book. Barnes has also written some essays on obscure writers, which in the sense also worked for me, as it piqued my interest in what they had written. For instance, an essay on Nicholas-Sebastien Roch de Chamfort and the one on Felix Feneon. This is the reason as I mentioned before, I love reading books on books.
Julian Barnes’s non-fiction writing is as superlative as his fiction writing. I love the range he covers in this book and this clearly reflects his reading tastes. Also the way he writes about the different periods and captures all the nuances is something which every reader will love or I hope they do. He displays this in almost every form of writing – from the novel to the short story to an essay and this shows how comfortable Barnes his with the way he writes.
“Through the Window” is a great collection of essays on the literary world. He gives full due to writers who have enthralled him over a period of time and with whom he sees a connection. “Through the Window” will for sure delight you if you are a bookworm who loves to know more about writers and their works in brief or just someone who wants to read a book about books.