I recently completed the 2012 Man Booker Prize Winning book, “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes. The Booker Prize is the Commonwealth’s most prestigious literary prize and former winners are Salman Rushdie, and books like The English Patient.
The book really has two levels. The first is the story of a retired English gentleman who receives 500 British Pounds and a diary of an old friend, from the will of the mother of an ex-girlfriend. The plot revolves around the narrator finding out why and reflecting on what happened 40 years ago when he dated the girl. The other level is the author writing about old age and looking back on one’s life. There were some very good passages to think about. Julian Barnes is in his sixties and his wife passed away a couple of years ago, so his latest books have been about death.
I had a bit of a hard time figuring out what happened in the story, but the comments under the reviews of the book really helped. What did we do before the internet???? I highlighted some bits in my e-book version. I love electronic books for that. The iPad library and books are really easy to read and so easy to download. It makes hauling books around the world obsolete as well as my abandoned dream of having a huge library in my house. The only bad thing is you can’t lend books to friends.
Here were the “food for thought” from the book regarding getting older.
- “This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.”
- “They grow up so quickly, don’t they? when all you really mean is: time goes faster for me nowadays.
- “he took off with someone who looked rather like her, but was that crucial ten years younger”
- “history is not the lies of victors…it’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.”
- “Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records-in words, sound, pictures – you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping.”
- “But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions-and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives – then I plead guilty. I’m nostalgic for my early time with Margaret, for Susie’s birth and first years…”
- “We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly…”
- “when we are young and sensitive, we are also at our most hurtful; whereas when the blood begins to slow, when we feel less sharply, when we are more armoured and have learnt how to bear hurt, we tread more carefully”
- “often in those long waking nights that age imposes.”
- “and of the luck any parent has when a child is born with 4 limbs, a normal brain, and the emotional makeup that allows the child, to lead any sort of life. May you be ordinary, as the poet once wished the newborn baby.”
- “You get towards the end of life- no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life.”
I guess that turning 45 last week has me thinking of getting to the stage of “old age.” I find that I am still in good health and feel young now. I am enjoying every year more and more and discover that as I get older, I get happier.