An Interview with Julian Barnes

Appointment in Samarra

by Parul Sehgal — Publishers Weekly, 7/21/2008

In Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes offers philosophical musings on mortality.

Why did you choose to address questions about faith and mortality in this particular form?

This book came out of the period of time after my parents’ death and the effect that subconsciously had on me. I could have invented a character who tells the reader what he thinks about death—which would be rather like what I think about death—but what’s the point of that? I didn’t want any artifice.

In the book you write that your parents tore up their love letters and used the scraps to stuff a leather cushion—is a lack of sentimentality a Barnes family trait?

I’ve always been against sentimentality. You can tell a sadist or practical joker by their sentimentality; it’s often an excuse for not really feeling. It’s mascara. I’m sure Hitler was great with his little puppies (not that there is anything wrong in being kind to animals, I hasten to add).

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