It’s Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be Frightened of.

The grammarian Pere Bouhours [on his deathbed] said: Je vas, ou je vais mourir: l’un ou l’autre se dit. (Loosely, ‘Soon I shall, or soon I will die: both are correct.’)

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[L]ife is a matter of cosmic hazard, its fundamental purpose mere self-perpetuation… it unfolds in emptiness… our planet will one day drift in frozen silence… the human species, as it has developed in all its frenzied and over-engineered complexity, will completely disappear and not be missed, because there is nobody and nothing out there to miss us.

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[A friend] consolingly quotes a study showing that fear of death drops off after the age of sixty. Well, I have got there before him, and can report that I am still waiting for the benefit. Only a couple of nights ago, there came again that alarmed and alarming moment, of being pitchforked back into consciousness, awake, alone, utterly alone, beating pillow with fist and shouting ‘Oh no Oh No OH NO’ in an endless wail, the horror of the moment – the minutes – overwhelming what might, to an objective witness, appear a shocking display of exhibitionist self-pity. An inarticulate one, too: for what sometimes shames me is the extraordinary lack of descriptive, or responsive, words that come out of my mouth. For God’s sake, you’re a writer, I say to myself…

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One Response to “Excerpts from UD’s Pandemic Reading.”

  1. University Diaries » ‘She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.’ Says:

    […] responds to the unassimilable, appalling fact of the avalanche (see also this recent post about Julian Barnes) with paralyzing anxiety and despair. So does Moses Herzog’s stepmother, in […]

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