Nothing to be Frightened of by Julian Barnes - review by Cressida Connolly

Cressida Connolly

The Croc’s Larder

Nothing to be Frightened of


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I can’t think of a nastier way to die than in a crocodile’s larder. Imagine the scene: first of all you get bitten by a crocodile, then shaken until you lose consciousness. After that you are pulled under water and dragged into a specially created lair, within the bank of the river, but slightly above water level. You awake here, surrounded by putrefying carcasses, and realise that your destiny is to become another of their number. Then you die (suffocation? bleeding to death from your wounds?) and get eaten. You may even be eaten first.

Most people are either ignorant of crocodiles’ larders, or do not allow themselves to become unduly troubled by the thought of them. But those of us cursed with a morbid disposition can spend quite a lot of our time fretting about them. Julian Barnes is clearly such a man, for he talks about croc larders in Nothing to be Frightened of. This is a sort of memoir, in which Barnes introduces us to his parents, his brother and some of the writers he prefers; but mostly it is about his fear of death. 

Having turned sixty, and after watching his parents decline, both of them the victims of debilitating strokes, he is much given to dark imaginings about his own end. He recounts the deaths of favourite writers: Flaubert, Zola, the Goncourt brothers, Jules Renard. From these accounts he comes to the unsurprising

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