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All is not as it seems

All is not as it seems

Required reading

Who: Karin Wenz, director of studies of the MA Media Culture

Book: The sense of an ending, by Julian Barnes

Target group: all students and employees

Karin Wenz bought The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes last February. It is the book that won the 2011 Man Booker Prize. She is not someone who reads a novel a second time, but this one she has read three times. “It is very beautiful, full of dry humour, interesting, at times emotional and relatively short. It’s a novella.” The book was written from the perspective of a retired man who reminisces about his last years at secondary school and his first years as a student. “It is all about memories, about the uncertainty of whether they are correct or not. At the beginning the main character, Tony Webster, says that he will try to be as honest as possible, but as you read you discover that he forgets things, leaves things out on purpose and twists facts.”

Webster thinks about his close circle of friends back then, “and how arrogantly they behaved, but also how deeply philosophical their thoughts were. They thought, for example, that history was no more and no less than a construction from a certain perspective.” They had high expectations of life and Webster dreamt along with his friends. Now, later on in life, he knows that there is a huge difference between dreams and reality. ‘My life is boring and ordinary,’ he concludes. Only to wonder what it would take for someone to rewrite a personal history in order to make it coherent and positive. Just like with the ‘larger’ history.

“The book is a must because it tells you about life and our dreams in a very intense and dry manner. It sets you thinking, shows that we often construct our own memories and in doing so also our views of the world. All is not as it seems. Take the boy who was a star in secondary school, but later on commits suicide. He had a bright mind, went to study philosophy in Cambridge. His whole group of friends think that he ended it all because they always said that if you think radically about Sartre, Camus and the existentialism, suicide is the ultimate solution. Later, it appears that the reason was much more trivial.” 

 

In this column lecturers recommend a novel that throws a different light on their field than textbooks do

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