Read The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes Online


If Julian Barnes' new collection of stories has a theme it is 'rage in age'. Among the Chinese the lemon is the symbol of death. At the 'lemon table' (a coinage of Sibelius, protagonist of the final story) it is permissible - indeed obligatory - to talk about death, and each of Barnes' characters is facing death, but each in a very different way.The settings range from eigIf Julian Barnes' new collection of stories has a theme it is 'rage in age'. Among the Chinese the lemon is the symbol of death. At the 'lemon table' (a coinage of Sibelius, protagonist of the final story) it is permissible - indeed obligatory - to talk about death, and each of Barnes' characters is facing death, but each in a very different way.The settings range from eighteenth-century Sweden and nineteenth-century Russia to the 'Barnet Shop', a hairdessing salon where an old man measures out his life in haircuts, or a South Bank concert hall where a music lover carries out an obsessive campaign against those who cough in concerts. In 'Knowing French' an eighty-four-year old woman, a former teacher 'incarcerated' in an old people's home, begins a correspondence with an author - 'Dear Dr Barnes' - that enriches both their lives. In 'Appetite' a woman reads elaborate recipes to her sick husband as a substitute for sex. In 'Hygiene' an old soldier makes his regular trip to town to do errands for his wife - stilton from Paxton's, rubber rings for Kilner jars, Elizabeth Arden powder - and to spend the afternoon with a tart called Babs.These stories are wise, funny, clever and moving....

Title : The Lemon Table
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780224071987
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Lemon Table Reviews

  • Lizzy
    2019-05-21 01:21

    "Cheer up! Death is round the corner."Despite Julian Barnes's own words, this inventive collection of short stories, that talk about growing old and dying, is neither depressing nor sentimental. It can be read and understood by people of all ages. Indeed, the stories of The Lemon Table tells us of breathing people and I can easily identify with the diverse characters and their sense of lost opportunities, with their regret and the fear of what lies ahead. Perhaps, it's not about age after all, for at all ages we deal with challenges and disillusionments. It's beautifully written and thought provoking, but not plot-driven. “Love might or might not promote kindness, gratify vanity, and clear the skin, but it did not lead to happiness; there was always an inequality of feeling or intention present. such was love's nature. of course, it 'worked' in the sense that it caused life's profoundest emotions, made him fresh as a spring's linden-blossom and broke him like a traitor on the wheel.”In an odd way, it gives sense to human existence. Highly recommended!_____

  • Tony
    2019-06-12 00:11

    Julian Barnes makes me feel smarter. My mind fractures, in a good way, and I see familiar things in new light, unfiltered and layered. I have to remind myself I’m not British.The Lemon Table takes eleven stabs at the meaning of growing old. I read this now, at a time when I am asked to enter senior events at the golf club and am offered a discount on breakfast out. I accept the former and decline the latter. I still have some pride. Topics change. I hear more of knee replacements, Florida in winter, bowel movements; less of scandal, lived Blues, dreams. I don’t remember it ever being this windy. Last night I saw a friend’s father at a party, sitting in a corner chair. I went to say hello. With a trained reflex, he pretended to know me. “It’s been so long.” I was told he’d have no clue. Later, I went to say goodbye. He looked scared now. His hand shot to his head, helpless against the silence of his mind. I wondered, driving home, if regrets were erased along with the names. Or do they linger till the end?You don’t have to have read Madame Bovary to read and love Flaubert s Parrot and you don’t have to have read Flaubert’s Parrot in order to read and love Knowing French, one of the stories here. I like to think that it’s based on some real event, that some 81 year-old woman started writing to Barnes and that he wrote back and that at some point she asked him, “Do you swear as much as your characters, I should like to know?” I should like to think that really happened, if just that much, and Barnes needed to wrap a story around it. This is masterful writing. Some of Barnes’ best. Such as this:One feeling at least grows stronger in me with each year that passes—a longing to see the cranes. At this time of year I stand on a hill and watch the sky. Today they did not come. There were only wild geese. Geese would be beautiful if cranes did not exist.That’s music, melody. It’s an old man, weighing his success and his failure. What might have been. Waiting for The Silence.You can read the rest of that one here:

  • Cecily
    2019-06-07 19:25

    A disparate collection of short stories, connected by considerations of ageing, though the settings (geographical and historical) and style vary considerably. The other common themes are secrecy, lies and self-delusion. Some contrast different life stages, whereas others focus on someone already getting on. It's not exactly uplifting, but it's not gloomy either.Why this, why now?My book acquisition is largely accidental, or rather, I browse second-hand bookshops for authors that I want to read, books I've heard of, or titles that catch my eye. Having bought a book, it might be days, weeks or years until I read it, triggered by a mix of what I've just read (whether I want something similar or contrasting) and what I've seen here on GR.When I came across this book, I had read a recent Barnes that I loved (The Sense of An Ending, reviewed here: and a very early one that showed promise, but was not great (Staring at the Sun, reviewed here: However, the fact I picked this, when short stories are not my usual fare, rather than one of several of his novels at the same stall, was perhaps a subconscious acknowledgement of my looming half-century. Turning 30 and 40 meant nothing much, but much as I hate to admit it, I think 50 may feel a bit different. These stories are more about old age than middle age, but they chimed somewhat for me. A Short History of HairdressingThe stages of a contemporary British boy/man's life, encapsulated in his different experiences and thoughts about having his hair cut. It's subtle and poignant, and the thoughts of the child are particularly convincing, such as musing that "Things you didn't know about, or weren't meant to know about, usually turned out to be rude".On the cusp of puberty, he makes his first solo trip to the barber. He is scared of perverts, and, to some extent, the barber: "He didn't like not being allowed to be afraid" (in contrast to the dentist) and is anxious because "you were never sure of the rules", even though he's confident that boys aren't expected to tip. He's also worried about being electrocuted by the clippers, but is reassured when he notices the barber's rubber shoes. "He submitted to the cold smoothness of the scissors - always cold even when they weren't."As a young adult, Gregory's anxieties are different. He still doesn't tip, but now it's because "He thought it a reinforcement of the deferential society". Rather than thinking the barber's pole "rude", he's fully aware of the history of surgeon-barbers. When he accedes to "buy something for the weekend", he is "complicit at last with the hairdresser".As an old man, "He still... couldn't slide easily into the posture", but "He could do this stuff, customer banter... It had only taken him 25 years to get the right tone". (view spoiler)[He is relaxed (and prepared for) tipping and finally has the confidence to decline to see the rear view of his haircut.(hide spoiler)]The Story of Mats IsraelsonThe social structure of a small, remote, nineteenth century Swedish town is delightfully and wryly described. People gossip about nothing, but when there IS something, "Gossip noted... Gossip suggested... Gossip wondered... Gossip decided that the worse interpretation of events was usually the safest and, in the end, the truest."In church, some pews are "reserved from generation to generation, regardless of merit", whereas the horse stalls outside cannot be bequeathed and are "for the six most important men in the neighbourhood". The stalls bear not labels, "but even so, we know our places. There is no other life.". So it's no surprise that this is a story of forbidden longing and lost opportunity for happiness, lived out by the protagonists, but paralleled in the mythologised story of Mats. A woman is "divided between not loving a man who deserved it, and loving one who did not... Though she took no account of legends, she had allowed herself to spend half her life in a frivolous dream."(view spoiler)[Anders Boden manages the sawmill, has a horrid, sarcastic wife, and falls in love with an incomer. She is drawn to him, but falls pregnant by her husband, and realises she is stuck with him. They occasionally meet on a ferry and, knowing she prefers true stories (she says she has no imagination) he polishes the story of Mats Israelson,so he can take her to the mine where it happened. When she says she'd like to go there one day it "had been a much more dangerous remark than 'At night I dream of Venice'.") Years later, she is summoned to his deathbed near the mine. They misunderstand each other, all their planned words are unsaid, and both are hurt. (hide spoiler)]The Things You KnowSet in contemporary USA, two elderly ladies chat at their monthly meetup in a restaurant. One "talked far too much about getting old" and had undyed hair "so natural it looked false". The other's hair "was an improbably bright straw, and seemed not to care that it was unconvincing". Each silently criticises the other and avoids saying what she really means: it's almost two separate conversations, with each woman quietly trying to outdo or undermine her fellow diner Each knows a secret about the other, that the one affected does not. (view spoiler)[Merril does not know, or is in denial about, her late husband being the "campus groper", and Janice does not know that hers was gay. (hide spoiler)] "Knowing this gave Merril a sense of superiority, but not of power."Are they really friends, or just allies?HygieneBack to 20th century Britain and a retired soldier says goodbye to his wife to go on his annual trip to London for a regimental dinner, organised like a military campaign and (view spoiler)[a rendezvous with his mistress (hide spoiler)]. He considers his life and gradually changing abilities in a detached way. (view spoiler)[When he turns up at his mistress' house, he discovers she was a prostitute and has died. He can't perform with the substitute As he had given money to his "mistress", coupled with some of the things she'd said, he surely knew - at some level.(hide spoiler)]The RevivalAn old playwright is surprised when his once-banned play is about to be staged. A young actress is the driving force, but she wants to play one of the minor characters.Gradually, he feels the actress really IS the very embodiment of his creation (view spoiler)[and falls in love with her (hide spoiler)].However, the story is cloudy. The unnamed narrator is unsure of the facts, saying "letters have not survived" and "his diary was later burned" - not that they'd have helped because apparently they weren't accurate anyway! "He was a connoisseur of the if-only. So they did not travel. They travelled in the past conditional." Time does not always heal pain, but "a trip back in the painless past conditional... anaesthetizes pain." His final gift is "a false memory".VigilanceThis first-person narrator could almost be one of Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads". He has always enjoyed going to London concerts, but now his pleasure comes from getting angry with noisy or unappreciative audience members, so that his partner will no longer come too. Incidents escalate in a rather comical way.The balance is that (view spoiler)[his partner is a cyclist who takes similar pleasure at berating bad car drivers (hide spoiler)].BarkA wealthy French man who is a gambler and food-lover gives up gambling, and he and his wife get fat. She chokes on her food, he feels guilty, and loses interest in life.He is rejuvenated by a fundraising scheme to build public baths in which the last survivor of the 40 original donors gets a good pension. The gambling instinct kicks in, and he takes great care of his own health (diet of fruit and bark), and a morbid interest in the declining health of the others - even though many are friends. But "what is the reason for living if it is only to outlive others?"There is a cycle of fate and revenge: (view spoiler)[he pays for weekly sex sessions with a young woman at the baths, allegedly for his health. He tells a friend, who tells him to break it off, but not why. It turns out, she is the friend's illegitimate daughter, but she is now pregnant, with her own illegitimate child. (hide spoiler)]Knowing FrenchA strangely self-referential story: in 1986, and old woman writes a series of letters to Julian Barnes about co-incidences and literature. She also writes about the tyranny of living in an old people's home, where everyone else is mad, deaf or both. Looking forward, rather than back, gets harder as you age.We never see his replies, though she refers to them. When she dies, he asks for his letters to be returned, but is told they've already been disposed of. Is this pure or partial fiction, and does it matter?AppetiteA terminally ill dentist with dementia is read cookery books by his second wife. It's almost erotic, but really to trigger related memories. He makes occasional uncharacteristic crude sexual demands, but she doesn't take it personally, quietly loving him and easing his passing for them both.The Fruit CageA middle aged son airs his worries about his parents. Their health seems OK, but their are tensions in their relationship.It turns out to be a story about (view spoiler)[an adult coping with parents splitting up, in part, because one has been having an affair. But this echoes back to awkwardness about their relationship, going back many years. She has been abusing him for years, and even after he moves in with his mistress, she still has the power. A final assault leaves him brain damaged. The women visit on alternate days, and he seems to think each is his wife. (hide spoiler)]The SilenceBack to Sweden at the custom of the 19th and 20th centuries, for the memories of an old composer who knew all the greats of classical music, but was not himself a great. He is lonely and confused, "Nowadays, when my friends desert me, I can no longer tell whether it is because of my success or my failure.""Music begins where words cease. What happens when music ceases? Silence." Yet his wife and five daughters are banned from making music at home. "My music is molten ice. In its movement you may detect its frozen beginnings, in its sonorities you may detect its initial silence."Meaning of the titleAccording to one of the stories, "Among the Chinese, the lemon is the symbol of death", and a character ends up "calling for a lemon" when he's had enough of life.Quotes* "A glutinous whine from the radio."* Unattainable love, "She was unprepared for the constant, silent, secret pain."* "Were you as young as you felt, or as old as you looked?"* "Pleasures not as strong as they had once been... so you drank less, enjoyed it more."* "Every love... is a real disaster when you give yourself over to it entirely."* "After the age of forty... the basis of life: Renunciation." and then talks about "the voluptuousness of renunciation".* "If we [21st century] know more about sex, they [20th?] know more about love."* "The village shop is 'good for essentials' which means that people use it to stop it closing down."* "The Four Last Things of Modern Life: making a will, planning for old age, facing death, and not being able to believe in an afterlife."* "A brisk woman... who gave off a quiet reek of high principle."* "Geese would be beautiful if cranes did not exist."Worst, and lastly, "Cheer up! Death is round the corner."

  • ·Karen·
    2019-06-09 00:27

    The point, Mr Novelist Barnes, is that Knowing French is different from Grammer, (sic) and that this applies to all aspects of life..... I am certain of one thing, that when you are thirty or forty you may be very good at Grammer, but by the time you get to be deaf or mad you also need to know French.Mr Novelist Barnes Knows French. A revisit to some of my favourite stories in this collection gives an inkling of how Mr Barnes weaves his sorcerer's spells. There is an astounding economy to his writing: within a paragraph which, on the surface, treats of wooden horse stalls outside a church, he has conveyed to us setting, time, background, and the structure of society that is essential to the story he will tell. Well, OK, two paragraphs. But it is a marvel nonetheless. So much said with so few words.The other thing that intrigues and brings me back to examine again is the warmth and compassion he shows to even the most unpleasant of characters. He does this more than once: sets us up to dislike the Major, for instance, (Hygiene) with his supercilious "you should just get out, woman", his irritating 'as per' and his tasks bloody list and his quaint idea that a postcard of a ceremonial sword in its scabbard is 'subtle', ha! Delusional, this man. Yes, but so human in his self-deception, it's what we all do, more or less, hold on desperately to our last scraps of self-respect, our sagging belief that we haven't changed, not so very much, since we were febrile and juicy, even if we now qualify for a senior citizen's railcard. Or Janice and Merrill, two widows in The Things You Know, scoring mental points off each other, begrudging, critical women, struggling to have one over on the other, but oh so careful of each other's blinkered view of her husband. Refusing to commit the final betrayal, the puncturing of illusions. 'Tom was wonderful,' said Merrill. 'It was a love match.' The campus groper, Tom. But Janice manages to keep down the aggression that rises within her like a burp. English ladies do not burp. The puncturing of illusions: a theme that runs through these stories of maturity. How we hold on to that sweetness, treasure it, husband it as succour for our later years. We change. We do not change. Take the rules of grammar and turn them into French.

  • Diane Barnes
    2019-05-31 03:17

    Julian Barnes has become one of my favorite authors. I have now read 3 of his books, "The Sense of an Ending" which was a brilliant novel; "The Pedant in the Kitchen", a very funny book of essays about cooking and reading recipes: and now this one, a book of short stories.The stories in this collection have aging as their main theme. I did a little math and figure that Barnes must have been around 58 or 59 when he wrote them, hardly old enough to be so astute about elderly concerns and feelings, but he pulled it off. Some of the characters are aging gracefully, others not so much. Julian Barnes has a very wry sense of humor that sometimes catches you by surprise, and at other times makes you laugh out loud, the whole time knowing that what you just read is sad beyond words. I love his sarcasm, his way of getting into the characters skin. Luckily for me, he's been very prolific in his career, so I have a lot more of his books to read.

  • Laysee
    2019-06-04 22:35

    "Cheer up! Death is round the corner." - Julian BarnesThe quotation pretty much sums up "The Lemon Table" both in its content and tone. Published in 2004, it is a collection of eleven stories on aging and dying. Julian Barnes allegedly once wrote "I am a writer presiding major reason: because I believe that the best art tells the most truth about life." This belief finds expression in "The Lemon Table". Because the truth is bitter, the stories are very hard to read.Yet Barnes is a master of his craft. The difficult subject matter is rendered palatable by his wry sense of humor. The stories are by turn cruel, scornful, and at times funny. Realism is served with teaspoons of wit, thus some stories go down really well with me. The stories are about loss and regret that come with aging. The characters are confronted with the loss of health, sanity, virility, independence, and control. In "Knowing French", the 81-year-old ward of an old folks’ home laments, "We disburse our lifetime's savings in order to hand over control of our lives." It is sobering to contemplate a time in life when the fizz has gone out, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”, and one can no longer play as energetically as before (e.g., "Hygiene"). Worse than this is the renunciation of the things that give life its sparkle. This is borne out painfully in "The Revival" that carries some of the saddest and grimmest observations of love. A 60-year-old writer (supposedly Turgenev) who has never succeeded in love falls in love with a 25-year-old actress. However, he believes that "..every love, happy as well as unhappy, is a real disaster when you give yourself over to it entirely." Therefore, his basis of life, perhaps owing to his past failures, is renunciation. He holds this last love at arms' length and nurtures it as a dream journey. I re-read this story closely and the second time round, I hear the author's voice. It is mocking, coarse, and even crude. It pokes fun at the old man's renunciation. But my sympathy lies with the old gentleman who has taken pains to avoid folly and to preserve a modicum of dignity. In these stories, the dependency of the elderly is fleshed out clearly in several stories. In "The Things You Know", two elderly widows put up a pretense of mutual support because in old age as in childhood, " needed allies again, people to see you through to the end." The other thing that strikes me is how aging takes its toll gravely on the family members of the elderly. In “Appetite”, a long suffering wife reads cookbook recipes to her food-loving husband who has dementia and flinches each time he hurls vulgarities at her. In “The Fruit Cage", I feel sorry for the grown-up son who has to ride the domestic storm when his 80-year-old father leaves his mother for a woman in her 60s. This is a depressing story of children having to parent their parents. However, there are gains that are exclusive privileges of getting older. In "A Short History of Hairdressing", Gregory who has always been socially awkward recognizes that "social apprehensions were now long gone. The small triumphs of maturity." In "The Silence", an elderly composer bemoaning the Eighth Symphony that is likely to remain unfinished reflects on his self-assured frame of mind: "When I was a young man, I was hurt by criticism. Now, when I am melancholy, I reread unpleasant words and am immensely cheered up. This is gain." There are two stories I have particularly enjoyed: "Vigilance" and "Knowing French"."Vigilance"This is a hilarious story about a 62-year-old aficionado of classical music who is ultra-sensitive to concert goers misbehaving at a classical concert. He takes great offence when his attention to and enjoyment of the music is distracted by coughing fits or even mere turning of the concert program. His extreme measures to take offenders to task are shocking. But I understand perfectly the annoyance when a beautiful performance is ruined by inconsiderate behavior. I wish I had the guts to do what he did. Wickedly satisfying. "Knowing French"This is a collection of witty correspondence between Julian Barnes and a woman in her 80s (formerly a bluestocking) living in an Old Folks’ Home. She is making the most of her time in a home where fellow old folks are "either mad or deaf". There is an irrepressible cheekiness I find refreshing. I like the word she coins for immense letter-writing - epistolomania. "The deafs and mads here are constantly afraid of Being a Nuisance. The only way of making sure you are not Being a Nuisance is to be in your coffin, so I intend to go on Being A Nuisance as a way of keeping alive." I find myself laughing and feeling sad at the same time. Pathos is most powerfully expressed in humor.“The Lemon Table” is not for everyone and not recommended when one is feeling sad and vulnerable. But it is a collection of stories worth reading at some point. PSThe title of this collection of stories draws its symbolism from the lemon. The composer in "The Silence" explains that, for the Chinese, the lemon is the symbol of death, so that his local café table where he gathers with friends to discuss mortality becomes “the lemon table”. However, to the best of my knowledge, the lemon does not symbolize death in the Chinese culture. Nevertheless, as a title, “The Lemon Table” still encapsulates the communion of bitterness that can threaten to define the last phase of life.

  • Teresa
    2019-06-04 19:17

    These are a fantastic group of stories, each one centered in some way on the theme of aging and dying, though they are neither depressing nor sentimental. Each story's characters are living, breathing people with his or her own voice -- and Barnes does achieve a unique voice for each story. (Two of the narrators were actual living, breathing people -- a famous 19th century Russian writer and a famous modern composer.)The stories are not only extremely well-written, but highly inventive, and one story in particular broke my heart. Barnes is brilliant.

  • Negativni
    2019-06-13 03:10

    Što je četrunovina?Nemam pojma. A ne zna ni Google, jedina referenca je na ovu knjigu. Ova zbirka kratkih priča se u originalu zove The Lemon Table, pa otkud onda ta četrunovina?Julian Barnes je cijenjen i popularan autor, čitao sam od njega nekoliko romana, a Engleska, Engleska mi je ostao u sjećanju kao odličan roman sa zanimljivom i originalnom pričom, iako se danas više ne mogu sjetiti nijedne pojedinosti iz njega. U zadnjem pohodu u knjižnicu sam uzeo ovaj Stol od četrunovine, jer sam htio provjeriti kako Barnes piše, ova je bila najtanja, pa ako mi se svidi posudio bih ponovno i Engleska, Engleska. Nisam znao da je ovo zbirka kratkih priča dok nisam počeo čitati.Iako ovo što je Barnes ovdje napisao ne bih nazvao pričama, više nedovršenim skicama od kojih bi se možda uz malo truda mogle razviti i neke priče. Svaka ima neku "poruku" i sadrži autorova promišljanja o životu i smrti, odnosno o neizbježnoj prolaznosti života i starenju. No sve je to tako prozirno i pojednostavljeno. Tu su i fraze poput: "Život je tek preuranjena reakcija na smrt.” i slične. Sve bi to bilo ok da je to pozadina, odnosno da priče pričaju o nečemu. Jedina koju bi istaknuo je prva: Kratka povijest frizerskog zanata, koja na zabavan način opisuje kako su se brijači i brijačnice relativno brzo pretvorili u frizere i frizerske salone. No, također i ona bi bolje fukcionirala kao esej, jer kao i ostale ima samo privid radnje. Uz sve napisano ocjena ipak nije jedinica, jer i sa ovako nedovršenim pričama Barnes uspjeva stvoriti neke zanimljive slike.

  • Betsy Robinson
    2019-06-02 21:12

    If you want a well-done critique with synopses of each story, read Cecily's review.Mea culpaMy reading time was fractured: I was constantly interrupted by work and then for several days I peered at the damned Kindle with its quirky formatting through blocked sinuses that made me feel stupid and sometimes a little insane. Also, this was my first Julian Barnes book, so I did not understand his references to his other books, and I am Amerkin, not British, so ditto re the Britishisms. Given my pathetic attention, clogged brain, and lack of erudition, it is a testament to Mr. Barnes that I still think he's a very good writer—plus which, lots of other smart Goodreaders have said he is, and, despite my wretched state, I know enough not to make waves from the bottom of a viscous sea.The stories are all about getting older. (The titular lemon is a symbol of death—explained in the final story.) All are moving, honest, funny, saucy, and sophisticated. In a story called "Hygiene" a man is up on a ladder to clean the roof gutter—as he's done for 25 years:. . . as he stood there, all protected, Wellington boots on his feet, windcheater around him, woolly cap on his head and rubber gloves on his hands, he would sometimes feel the tears begin and he knew it wasn't because of the wind, and then he'd get stuck, one rubber hand clamped to the guttering, the other one pretending to poke in the curve of thick plastic, and he'd be scared fartless. Of the whole damn thing."That just about says it all.

  • Jelena
    2019-06-04 20:26

    The common topic of all stories in Julian Barnes‘ “The Lemon Table” is death and ageing. Apart from that, the settings, the narrators, the events and the tone vary. How time changes who you are or how you see yourself, how others see you, whether what is now can retroactively change what once was or whether there are various truths at various points – all that might or might not interest you per se. But that is not the point. Personally, I am very drawn to all such questions and reflections. And truth be told: you can find them in more (literary) places than not, though few authors discuss them with such a gentleness like Barnes. At their core, none of these stories is about the topic itself. It is the weaving that makes this small volume a pure gem. Each sentence, each scene is crystal-clear and lucid, downy in its delicacy and yet a gateway to an abyss of beauty and horror. Every sentence spoken or thought is the tip of an iceberg of the characters’ relations, their rights and wrongs and in-betweens, everything ever said and – even more so – concealed between them, everything that might have, ought to have or never should have been, of every opportunity missed and every chance better not taken. You know some of those marvellous actors in equally marvellous scenes, where one barely visible, blink-and-it-has-never-even-been-there, wink of the eye or a twitch in the corner of the lips tells volumes in utter silence? Well, this is its literary equivalent: an atlas of human sensibility masked as a humble, unassuming stillness.

  • Alena
    2019-06-17 02:13

    "Geese would be beautiful if cranes did not exist."Julian Barnes is the crane of modern writers, ruining me for all the geese out there. I can’t remember the specifics of most of the short stories in this collection, but weeks later I can tell you that Barnes’ writing held me captive throughout. My mom, who shares my love of Barnes, describes him as “slice of thought.” His ability to get inside of the way we think astonishes me.I love his characters, starting with a boy who’s convinced that the barber is out to get him, and I adore the emotional setting in which his characters reside.Our way of conversing was long-established: companionable, chummy, oblique; warm, yet essentially distant. English, oh yes it's English. In my family we don't do hugging and back-slapping, we don't do sentimentality. Rites of passage: we get our certificates by mail."Aging is the theme which holds this collection together, but it doesn’t feel sad or slightly beyond my viewpoint. In fact, I forgot that most of his protagonists are much older than I am because I understood their thoughts and concerns. I identified with regret and wasted opportunities and the fear at what lies ahead. I even appreciated the darker sides of their natures."That was all you needed to know about the heart: where the grain lay. Then with a twist, with a gesture, you could destroy it."If you’re looking for plot-driven stories about people you know, Barnes is not for you. But if you’re looking vignettes wrapped around thought-provoking, beautiful language, I strongly recommend The Lemon Table.

  • Stela
    2019-05-24 20:11

    The Silence TableThat Brancusian table with its twelve seats, eleven of them duly occupied by eleven characters, each of them waiting for his lemon. The twelfth is forever empty for is forever reserved to the lemons’ distributor – Death. But before leaving with the yellow fruit in hand, each occupant has to tell his story, has to make sense of his life and to acknowledge his place in the world. So maybe Julian Barnes’s Lemon Table is not about old age and death after all, just as Brancusi’s sculpture is not about waiting. But both are surely about the power of art to give sense to the human feelings, to human existence. Like Anders Bodén, the hero of the brilliant Story of Mats Israelson, who, for more than twenty years polishes an old story as a gift for the woman he has loved, thus rising not only the narrative but also his own feelings above the oblivion:…he worked at the story until he had it in a form that would please her: simple, hard, true.In fact, the main theme of the book is love, be it creative or procreative. For the retired major Jacko Jackson, who has visited his mistress Babs once a year for twenty-three years, love is a means to escape the dullness of the quotidian: “She was – what was that phrase they used nowadays? – his window of opportunity” (Hygiene) For the 81-year-old man who leaves his wife to settle with his mistress of 65, love is his mutiny against decrepitude but also against the preconception that old means already dead or waiting for dying (The Fruit Cage). Reading, even cooking recipes, is love that slows the falling into Alzheimer nothingness of the beloved one (Appetite). And then there is love as a source of creation. In the last story, The Silence, the old, drunken and apparently embittered Sibelius, whose love for music cannot be turned into creation anymore, is well aware that it is this love that defines him: 'Certainly, I am neurotic and frequently unhappy, but that is largely the consequence of being an artist rather than the cause.'Finally, the two kinds of Eros are harmonized in The Revival, the story of the 65 year-old Turgenev’s last love for an actress of 25. A bittersweet love which “move il sole e l’altre stele” precisely because it is unfulfilled: Like most of his life’s writing, the paly was concerned with love. And as in his life, so in his writing, love did not work. Love might or might not provoke kindness, gratify vanity, and clear the skin, but it did not lead to happiness, there was always an inequality of feelings or intention present. Such was love’s nature.Each of the eleven stories in the volume is about love in one sense or another. In each one of them, love is sought to escape time.Each stool around Brancusi’s table has the form of an hourglass. However, there is no sand dripping the time. The occupants are gone; their voices are but vague memories, their individuality already forgotten. But the seats are there, frozen into eternity. They will continue to speak about love, and suffering, and human imperfections and of death as not the end of all things as long as someone will listen to them. Like Barnes’s book does.

  • Trevor
    2019-05-25 01:24

    Bought this for my mother for her birthday the year it came out and only read it this year - um, opps...A series of short stories based on growing old and regrets. Regrets about life and love and everything else. Perhaps one can judge the quality of a person by the quality of their regrets? Just a thought.Wonderful stories by a magnificent writer.

  • Will
    2019-05-24 20:10

    Short stories concerning aging and death, where we hear the protagonists’ inner voices and thoughts. Some are brilliant although I found the ones set in the 19th century didn’t work at all – I couldn’t relate to the extreme constipation of expression and sense of duty – relevant then of course but not illuminating anything about today’s experience of the end of life; the past is another country. But the rest are great.

  • Dymbula
    2019-06-12 22:12

    Poněkud smutný obsah, ale s nadhledem a zvesela.Tandem Julian Bernes - Viktor Janiš je fakt skvělý.

  • Tomáš Fojtik
    2019-06-17 20:17

    Juliana Barnese mám rád, přestože jsem toho od něj mnoho nečetl. Nicméně jeho styl mi vyhovuje a tak jsem se těšil na povídky, které vydalo nakladatelství Plus a které přeložil Viktor Janiš. Jejich leitmotivem je stárnutí, což na první pohled působí dost depresivně. Ale nakonec jsem neměl pocit, že by byly povídky kdovíjak sentimentální, nebo trudné. Na některé z nich budu dlouho vzpomínat, ať už kvůli skvělému jazyku Barnese/Janiše, a nebo proto, že ty příběhy byly prostě skvělé. A to byly všechny. Proč jsem nedal pátou hvězdu? Zdá se mi, že povídky jsou jakoby náhodně poskládáné za sebe a že kdyby byly poskládané jinak, vůbec nic by se nestalo. U povídek, které mají jedno společné téma bych spíš čekal, že tam bude nějaký pojící prvek; nějaká osa příběhu, která bude pokračovat dopředu. Není to vyloženě špatně, ale pro mě to byl důvod zvážit pátou hvězdu, kterou jsem nakonec nedal. To ale neznamená, že Stolek s citróny není skvělá kniha. Je. Za dlouhou dobu to jsou nejlepší povídky, které jsem četl. Barnes je mistr. A Viktor Janiš je lingvistický čaroděj.

  • Paul
    2019-06-10 22:16

    This little collection of short stories by Barnes is all centred around characters in the twilight years of their lives. The stories vary enormously, but they have elements in common; loss of independence, fond reminiscences of past events, decline in health and well being, love lost and gained and inevitably death. They tales are set in barbers shops, old people’s and family homes; some concern family secrets, one is letters between a reader and a writer and the tragic theft of a mind from Alzheimer's.Barnes writes with a light touch for subjects that are quite deep and poignant. The prose is brief, almost clipped at times, giving us the barest of plot elements and outline sketches of the characters in each story. As with any short story collection, some work better than others, and even though it is a tough subject to write about, and could be depressing, Barnes does it with humour and wit at times. It is a good introduction to the quality of Barnes writing, and even though it can be a tad depressing, it is not bad overall.

  • Nevena
    2019-06-17 20:29

    Способността на този автор да се превъплащава в различни личности, принадлежащи на различни социални прослойки, живеещи в различни епохи и дори в различни възрасти (първият разказ от сборника – един и същи човек в три етапа от живота си), е феноменална. И всеки един от протагонистите на разказите му звучи с различна тоналност, виждаш как лексиката се променя, синтаксисът, понятията и как те отразяват вариращата чувствителност на героите. Барнс е автор-хамелеон – тази способност да излезеш от собственото си "аз" за мен е висшият пилотаж в художествената проза. В този сборник има единайсет разказа. Това са единайсет вариации на една и съща тема – преходът от живота към смъртта. Разказани по съвсем различен начин, но до един пропити от носталгичната атмосфера на есента. Преводът на Димитрина Кондева е добър. Корицата – също – жълтото на лимона и на фона не е обикновено жълто, то е жълтото на есента. Браво на Обсидиан, направили са една чудесна книга!

  • kellyn
    2019-06-20 00:22

    I am so sick of modern contemplative writing, winding and twisting in circles of pointless emotional exploration. I haven't always felt this way about this style of writing and I'm sure my feelings will change again. At this point in my life however, the goal-less internal exploration of characters and their contrived quirkiness is outright depressing and turns me off. Got through the book as far as the story of the Grindewalds(sp?), the Swedish couple, and just couldn't bear anymore of the characters' hopeless internal lives. Maybe some other time!I was listening to the book on CD and I will say that the narrator, Timothy West was excellent and I will look for other books read by him. O.K. so after being forced to listen to the remainder of the discs, because I had no other books on CD during a 6 hour trip, my opinion has changed slightly. Some of the stories on the remaining discs were witty, touching, and thoughtful.

  • Melori
    2019-05-28 01:35

    První povídka mě zrovna nenadchla, ale všechny ostatní byly brilantní!

  • Jan Kadlec
    2019-06-20 02:33

    Jedna lahůdka vedle druhé. Barnes mění místa, časy, pohlaví i sexuální orientaci. Skáče sem a tam a šikovně udržuje čtenáře v očekávání.Všechny povídky mi nesedly (však komu ano; proto ta jedna stržená hvězda), ale ty, které mě zaujaly, si mě naprosto získaly. Svižné, vtipné, překvapivé.Barnes probírá život, stárnutí, umírání a lásku. Se vším, co k tomu patří: drby, vulgarity, sex. Nechápu, jak se mu povedlo nepřehnat to s dávkováním.A pak ten překlad. Hravý. Trefný. Přirozený. Jak má být.

  • Kulturozpyt Prumerny
    2019-06-13 02:12

    Spokojený. Je to jako být v dobré kavárně s dobrými hosty.

  • Mary
    2019-06-12 19:32

    Highly entertaining stories laced with bitter humor and lingering regret.

  • Deea
    2019-06-10 03:18

    I'd give a 5 to this book for some of the stories and a 2 for others. Not sure I understood "the others", the ones that I'd give two stars to.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2019-05-20 22:35

    Sidelong Glances in RetrospectOne of the things I most enjoy about Julian Barnes is his variety. Each of his books questions the conventional idea of a novel, and each does so in a different way. So I open this collection of eleven short stories expecting an intriguing range of subject and technique, united by a humanity that Barnes has never yet failed to provide. I was not disappointed. This book is as wonderfully written as it is pleasant to hold in the hand, in this beautiful Vintage paperback edition. The range of subjects is indeed large, with scenes of contemporary London alternating with historical stories set in France, Sweden, or Russia. Although all the stories are about twenty pages long, some take place in a single hour, others span a lifetime. They are linked by the common theme of aging, but this should not be a deterrent; few are sad, but rather wry, tender, surprising, or even hysterically funny. Barnes' range of emotion is as great as his range of style.The stories are technically varied, too. In some, the narrator speaks entirely in the first person: "A Short History of Hairdressing," the first story, opens in the voice of a fearful young schoolboy; "Hygiene" replays the mental check-list of a retired soldier still locked in army lingo. Others seem written by a dispassionate historian—or not so dispassionate, as when the biographer of Turgenev narrating "The Revival" starts re-examining conventional phrases of 19th-century courtesy in 21st-century four-letter terms. Or the objective and subjective can be mixed, as in "The Things You Know," where the conversation between two widows sharing a hotel breakfast is intercut with their very different thoughts. Another story, "Knowing French," is told entirely through correspondence. People who know Barnes from his extraordinary quasi-novels such as A History of the World in 10½ Chapters or Flaubert's Parrot will be exhilarated, not surprised; people who enjoy these stories will be encouraged to try the novels.My favorite contemporary short-story writer up to now has been William Trevor—at his best, I think, in After Rain. The wisdom with which he looks back on the wicked world as an older man has always had something profoundly consoling, and Barnes shares this quality. But the two writers approach their subjects from quite different angles. Trevor is the more straightforward, telling a story straight on in sequence. Barnes stalks his subjects from the side, often ostensibly writing about something quite different, striking his real target only tangentially. We see glimpses of a romantic life-history among the barbershop visits in "Hairdressing"; the old major's annual visit to a London prostitute in "Hygiene" reveals only his love for his wife; an older man's diatribe about concert behavior in "Vigilance" turns out to be about the slow deterioration of a gay relationship. Sidelong glances in retrospect.Barnes' wonderful tangentiality is shown nowhere more clearly than in my favorite of these tales, "The Story of Mats Israelson." The irony is that the title story—about a real copper miner in Falun, Sweden, killed in a accident in 1677, whose petrified body turned up 40 years later—is never properly recounted at all. The non-telling of the story becomes only one of many things that do not take place between one upright citizen and the wife of another in a small town in 19th-century Sweden, whether through propriety, shyness, or circumstance. Yet for the rest of their lives, as they continue in their marriages, they each nurse the pain of the unconsummated attraction. Barnes, who loves Flaubert, here writes a beautiful antithesis to Madame Bovary, where heartbreak is only increased by the fact that nothing happens, distilling the lingering essence of what might have been.The collection ends with an elderly Scandinavian composer watching a flock of cranes disappear into the distance. "I watched until my eyes blurred; I listened until I could hear nothing more, and silence resumed." The full irony may be lost on readers who do not identify the composer as Jean Sibelius, whose own music had passed into silence some thirty years before. But it remains a touching image of that last transition.

  • Marie Chow
    2019-05-23 03:15

    Cut to the Chase:A dense and beautifully written collection of stories whose only common thread is that all of its main characters are growing old, and either contemplating death, or the life they’ve lived: the mistakes, the regrets, the small joys of everyday life and love. Probably my favorite work by Julian Barnes, its characters vary between being poignant and polished, or vulgar and offensive — sometimes all of the above all at once. It is an enthralling, emotional read that deserves to be not only read, but repeated.Greater Detail:There are 11 short stories here, with a variety of characters, time periods and situations. They’re all extraordinarily dense, so it’s hard to give enough details to entice without trying to summarize the whole story, but some of my favorites were:1. Appetite – a wife tries to soothe her husband by reading old recipes to elicit some spark of memory in his Alzheimer’s-ravaged mind. With time, he reveals flashes of a personality that she never suspected was underneath the sophisticated, refined man she married.2. The Fruit Cage – a son is caught between his eighty-year-old parents and their sudden separation; we see how complicated past and future can be as he reflects on their marriage and how well he really knows his parents.3. Hygiene – an aging WWII vet prepares for a day in London. He has a list of chores from his wife, dinner with some old war buddies, and an afternoon booked with a prostitute he’s been visiting for over two decades now.4. The Things You Know – two extraordinarily catty, lonely widows who meet for their monthly breakfasts, each holding onto long ago secrets, and competing for superiority through idealized versions of their dead husbands.5. “The Story of Mats Israelson” –a tantalizing portrayal of a quiet affair that never quite happens, it deals with the constraints that gossip and the idea of virtue put upon us, and, of course, the impact unfulfilled love and dreams can haveOther interesting stories included:“A Short History of Hairdressing” — takes us through a man’s life via a series of trips to the barbershop“Knowing French” — showcases the relationship between an elderly lady and Julian Barnes“The Silence” — follows a famous composer at the end of his life.Though a couple felt a little flat, most were moving and compelling. The characters are intricately drawn and incredibly layered considered how briefly we know them.The running theme throughout isn’t just how we change as we age, or how we reflect on our lives, but also how well we really know one another. In Barnes’s world, time often muddies, rather than clarifies, our true personalities, and we feel this tension and confusion clearly, with each story inspiring emotions that will stay with you long after the narrative ends.Comparisons to Other Authors:So in terms of other books that talk about aging, David Gates’s collection Wonders of the Invisible World has a few stories on this topic; otherwise, I’m not positive how to compare short story collections… he’s a little more whole story than Amy Hempel, and perhaps a little similar to Tobias Wolfe though with a broader, more European perspective?

  • Terence
    2019-06-11 20:08

    I read and enjoyed Julian Barnes' nonfiction ruminations about death and how we face up to it in Nothing to Be Frightened Of so when I saw his fictional endeavor on the library shelf, I picked it up.The stories here revolve around people approaching death and how they deal with wasted opportunities, their mortality, and dealing with their failing minds and bodies. It's a melancholy though not depressing book - Humans seem fated to meet their ends with disappointment and fear and there's never enough time to make things "right."The best stories are the ones where Barnes sticks with ordinary people. Others, like "The Revival," which chronicles a maybe/maybe-not love affair between Turgenev and a Russian actress, are a bit "precious" and artificial for my taste.The best stories in the lot:"The Story of Mats Israelson": Four honest, intelligent and decent people who completely misinterpret each other's words and actions and the ensuing messes they make of their lives. I love stories like this."The Things You Know": A story about two older women meeting for lunch. Again, it's a story about miscommunication and deceptions."The Fruit Cage": An ambiguous story about possible spousal abuse and how people love each other."The Silence": I liked this one because it reminded me of Steven Mithen's The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music Language Mind and Body - the cycle of emerging from silence (womb) - music (broadly interpreted as any nonverbal communication) - words - music (old age, senility) - silence (tomb).

  • Zuzana Schedová
    2019-06-02 21:18

    Nechala som si pár dní po prečítaní na utriedenie myšlienok o tejto zbierke poviedok, ale stále si nie som istá, či sa mi páčila, alebo nie. Mám zo Stolku s citróny zmiešané pocity.Objektívne je to vynikajúca kniha, Julian Barnes píše veľmi zaujímavo, vykresľuje atmosféru, postavy, hrása s okolnosťamii, ale asi ma v tomto prípade nezaujala tematika poviedok. Miestami som sa dokonca nudila a to ja u čítaní robím veľmi nerada. Celou poviedkovou zbierkou sa tiahne spoločná téma starnutia. Niektoré poviedky boli lepšie, iné horšie a jednu som skoro nedočítala. Vtedy som mala chuť celú knihu odložiť, ale nakoniec som rada, že som tak neurobila. V druhej polovici knihy sa našlo pár poviedok, ktorá ma zaujali. Ale celkovo zhodnotené, pravdepodobne som nebola ten správny čitateľ pre túto poviedkovú zbierku.Čo ale musím pochváliť je jazyk poviedok, páčila sa mi tá pekná melodika jazyka, ktorú Julian Barnes používa a ktorú sa podarilo prekladateľovi Viktorovi Janišovi preniesť do českého jazyka. Keďže som nečítala originál, neviem do akej miery je to zásluha prekladateľa, ale po jazykovej stránke som bola z tejto knihy nadšená.

  • Patrick Garrett
    2019-05-29 01:08

    I read this following my introduction to Barnes: The Sense of an Ending. I found these sentences told reams of stories in a way at which the novel only hinted. The introductory story left me with the sense that I had been acquainted with its protagonist for years and that we might meet on the street where I could compliment him on a new and flattering haircut--which in reality hadn't changed a bit since we were boys. I recommend the book to music lovers, devotes of rhythm, and those with a predisposition toward melancholy humor.

  • Dáša Beníšková
    2019-06-19 23:20

    Ten Barnes je prostě dobrej. Dvěstě stránek vo stáří a lidech 60+, jeden by čekal, že to depresí a sentimentem bude mrskat vode zdi ke zdi, a houbelec. Až se skorem společně s Nohavicou těšim, až budu starým mužem, ehm, ženou..