The first love and its shattering abysses

The first love and its shattering abysses

Place and time: do they still matter in relationships?? He who truly loves will reject this question as foolish. Like paul, who at the age of 19 falls in love with a 48-year-old married woman. And who, of course, promptly "the old, persistent, ineradicable illusion" surrenders "that lovers are somehow outside of time." This is what english author julian barnes tells in his new novel "the only story.

It is only in retrospect, some five decades later, that paul will realize how much social circumstances also played a role in his case. These are familiar territory for barnes readers. It is the uptight-neurotic england of the early sixties.

A middle class town near london, where every weekday morning the commuter buses take the train into town. And then their wives had to pass the time somehow, for example on the tennis court. There, at the tennis club, paul should have met a nice, marriageable christine or virginia, according to his mother’s will. The fact that susan macleod becomes the mother of two almost grown-up daughters gives the young man considerable satisfaction.

Finally, he is determined to follow a different life model than his parents, who for him are the model example of "dump stool" and "driver are. This is what paul calls all those adults who have sought a soft hollow in their lives "marriage" from which there is no escape anymore. "Whatever happened, I did not want to become a trough stool."

What the young man becomes instead is susan’s "tennis partner" and "drivers. Naturally, their environment quickly sees through the facade of the two. They are soon excluded from the tennis club; paul’s parents, on the other hand, curse themselves into an "english silence". And susan’s husband gordon? "Mister elephant pants, as his wife mocks him, there is nothing left to do but grudgingly tolerate his wife’s new house mate, curse himself into alcohol, and obsessively solve crossword puzzles.

An activity in which barnes’ protagonist recognizes only the helpless attempt of another trough stooler to reduce the chaos of the world to a small comprehensible grid of black-and-white squares.

Obsessive activity

Paul’s contemptuous reflections on the philosophy of crossword guessing are a great example of the typical barnes mixture of illuminating detail and literary essayism, amalgamated in a prose that is, as always, light and polished.

The now 13. The british author’s latest novel brings together all the themes that have been at the heart of barnes’ work for almost 40 years: love and death, youth and old age, distrust of definitive conclusions, an obsessive preoccupation with the past, and the questionable nature of all memory. And as in his booker-award winning masterpiece "vom ende einer geschichte (2011) here, too, an unreliable payer recalls his life story, which ends in disaster and is full of life’s lies. Barnes’ new novel is divided into three parts, and while the first tells of the love frenzy of the beginning, the second tells of the failure of the relationship, the third of the afterlife, with the narrative voice shifting convincingly from the I to the you to the he.

After all, "first love" always happens in the overwhelming first person, … In the overwhelming "prasens", on the other hand, the disillusioned payer, with a "verodeten", was looking at me heart, in old age "his life in the third person".

The end of this rough novel is as upsetting as it is shocking.


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