Metroland by Julian Barnes - review by Philip Sturgess

Philip Sturgess




Jonathan Cape 176pp £4.95 order from our bookshop

Metroland is divided into three sections. In the first section, we meet Toni and Chris as schoolboys who share a devotion to the intangible values of art, and a constant desire to ‘épater le bourgeois’ through displays of adolescent cheek. Their belief in the enhancing nature of Art leads them to examine religiously their own physiological responses when listening to records or looking at pictures. At this stage, Chris views ‘metroland’ with disdain as a kind of suburban wasteland where his family happen to live, an area whose only distinction is to be devoid of any at all. The two friends deride everything conventional and career-orientated – they visualise their own future as being ‘artists in residence at a nudist colony’.

The test of this aspiring bohemian mentality comes when Chris spends a period in Paris, the revolutionary Paris of 1968 no less. Here is the chance to establish his own scale of values, as far removed as could be from metroland and its sterile associations. As it happens, the political

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