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Metroland (1980)

por Julian Barnes

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8521925,409 (3.61)34
The adolescent Christopher and his soul mate Toni had sneered at the stifling ennui of Metroland, their cosy patch of suburbia on the Metropolitan line. They had longed for Life to begin - meaning Sex and Freedom - to travel and choose their own clothes.Then Chris, at thirty, starts to settle comfortably into bourgeois contentment himself. Luckily, Toni is still around to challenge such backsliding..… (mais)
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"Ah - a new definition of "adult": the time during which one has sold out", remarks Toni caustically. But then it's certainly not the majority of us who maintain an adolescent's sneering contempt of the bourgeoisie (as they might term it in London, at least) and of such traditional life choices as marriage, children, mortgages, and steady jobs on into what can solidly be considered the adult years. The debut novel of Julian Barnes is a coming of age story that extends into the solid rungs of adulthood and contrasts the diverging paths of teenage best friends Toni, who retains the stark intellectual and emotional outlook of rebellious adolescence, and Chris, who either matures or sells-out, as you like it.

As teenagers in sixties London, Toni and Chris bonded over a shared intellectualism, a revulsion towards their suburban surroundings, a conviction that Art was the most important thing in life, and an impatient waiting for that time that they would be Out There Living, and doing so better than the contemptible adults around them did.

In 1968, Chris, now 21, goes to Paris, officially with a research grant in hand but more accurately on a self-discovery jaunt. He becomes involved with a girl and begins to reconsider certain attitudes:

"Until I met Annick I'd always been certain that the edgy cynicism and disbelief in which I dealt, plus a cowed trust in the word of any imaginative writer, were the only tools for the painful, wrenching extraction of truths from the surrounding quartz of hypocrisy and deceit. The pursuit of truth had always seemed something combative. Now, not exactly in a flash, but over a few weeks, I wondered if it weren't something both higher - above the supposed conflict - and simpler, attainable not through striving but a simple inward glance."

It is his first love affair, and the righteous certitude of teenage theories fails him: "'[F:]eelings' were things you felt, so why couldn't you identify them?". He fumbles that relationship away, but meets the woman he'll marry back home in London in three years time. There, Toni refuses to attend the wedding on principle, sending "a carefully argued case against marriage" through the post that Chris doesn't bother to read. When do the theories stop? He finds a job in publishing, which "doesn't make me feel shitty: we don't fight against making money but we use good people, and we produce good books."

The novel ends when Chris and Toni are about 30 years old. They see each other infrequently, and Toni does not hold back his assertive contempt for Chris's "bourgeois" life those times they meet up, condemning his friend's retreat from those trenchant attitudes they shared as adolescents. Chris is on the defensive on two fronts, towards Toni and towards the inner voice of self-doubt, the latter being the more insidious.

As the story comes to a close he fights it off: "But what do these complaints urge, except pointless excess and disloyalty to one's character? What do they promise but disorientation and the loss of love? What's so chic about extremes; and why such guilt about the false lure of action?" He's a happy man, he declares, an achievement worthy of an adult life.

I first read this novel at age 22, while on a bit of a self-discovery jaunt in a foreign country myself. I'd say it was a time of some transition not dissimilar to what Chris's character experienced. Re-reading the novel now at age 33, I have ended up in much the same place Chris did. Married, mortgage, child(ren), steady job that doesn't make me feel shitty. Bourgeois? Perhaps. Happy? Yes. It is worthy. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
I really enjoyed reading this debut novel, although it has a lot of failings. I read it after reading [book:The Sense of an Ending|10746542] and then finding this book in the cheap rack at a second hand bookshop. There are a number of passages where Barnes' prose has the playfulness and insight that are evident in his later books, and as such it is nice to see the talent already in place. However, there are also sections that are sloppy or barely hang together.

Another interesting consistency with the later work is that the questions that preoccupy him seem to be the same - this is very much about what it means to live a good life and what happens to youthful idealism.

I wouldn't recommend this if its your first Julian Barnes novel, but if you'd read him before I wouldn't recommend steering clear of it just because it's his debut novel. There is plenty to recommend this for its energy and the occasional glimpses of virtuosity in the prose. ( )
  robfwalter | Jul 31, 2023 |
Dos disparatados adolescentes, Christopher y su amigo Toni, se dedican a observar, con agudo ojo cínico, los diversos grados de chifladura o imbecilidad de la gente que les rodea: aburridos padres y fastidiosos hermanos; futbolistas de tercera y visitantes de la National Gallery; futuros oficinistas y bancarios empedernidos; y, sobre todo, esa fauna que viaja cada día en la Metropolitan Line del metro de Londres. Todo aparecerá enfocado a través de los prismáticos de su despiadada crítica de imberbes, ante la que no se salva nadie, ni siquieria Dios —y tómese esto en su sentido literal—.
  Natt90 | Mar 28, 2023 |
Novela de juventud de J Barnes. Buena divertida agil, ya prefigura alguno de los temas que desarrollara en el futuro, el amor, la incertidumbre, la falta de decisión y dejarse llevar por las circunstancias que muestran algunos de sus futuros personajes. Una vida, colegio educación en francia, vuelta a las islas, una vida tranquila burguesa y sin sobresaltos. EN definitiva : Que es la felicidad? ( )
  gneoflavio | Sep 7, 2021 |
This book is a coming-of-age novel, so in that sense, it’s a typical first novel. But it’s a fresh take on the genre, both structurally and in the insights it offers. Barnes arranges the plot like a triptych. The center panel takes place in Paris, May 1968, with the protagonist oblivious to the epoch-making events a few streets over. The self-absorption is ironic since the few weeks he spends there on a research grant provide a clear demarcation between adolescence and adulthood. Sexual initiation, naturally, plays a role, but this, like the rest of the narrative, is handled in a fresh, non-sentimental way.
And the two side panels? A decade after Paris the protagonist has returned to Metroland (the suburbs stretching north of London along the Metropolitan line) and has become the kind of person he despised as a schoolboy (described in the first section). The irony is that he doesn’t mind.
I came to this after reading other books by Barnes and wasn’t surprised to find his preoccupations already evident: his love of French language and literature, for instance, and his fear of death. His vocabulary is fresh and finely-honed, without seeming affected, and his analysis of the shifts in relationships is subtle. An enjoyable read. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Julian Barnesautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Wise, GregNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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The adolescent Christopher and his soul mate Toni had sneered at the stifling ennui of Metroland, their cosy patch of suburbia on the Metropolitan line. They had longed for Life to begin - meaning Sex and Freedom - to travel and choose their own clothes.Then Chris, at thirty, starts to settle comfortably into bourgeois contentment himself. Luckily, Toni is still around to challenge such backsliding..

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