Julian Barnes Believes Death is Nothing to be Frightened of
If you’re looking for a writer to discuss mortality, Julian Barnes' Nothing To Be Frightened Of is a great place to start.
Barnes writes candidly about his thoughts on the “last great journey” and he’s had plenty of time to think about it. When asked by a friend how often he thinks about death, he replies:
“At least once a day… and then there are intermittent nocturnal attacks. Mortality often gatecrashes my consciousness when the outside world presents an obvious parallel: as evening falls, as the days shorten, or towards the end of a long day’s hiking. A little more originally, perhaps, my wake-up call frequently shrills at the start of a sports event on television, especially, for some reason, during the Five (now Six) Nations rugby tournament.”
While it seems that reminders of death are even interrupting Barnes' rugby viewing, he also looks to other great artists. He admires Finnish composer Sibelius, who met with a group called the Lemon Table named for the citrus fruit which is a symbol of death in Chinese culture.
But he’s also a fan of Flaubert’s artistic fatalism, enjoying his quote: “People like us should have the religion of despair. One must be equal to one’s destiny… of gazing into the black pit at one’s feet, one remains calm.” In response, Barnes cheerfully writes “I have never wanted the taste of a shotgun in my mouth. Compared to that, my fear of death is low-level, reasonable, practical.”