All that we miss

Charles 11 Comments

In his new book, Levels of Life, Julian Barnes writes of the grief he felt, and still feels, following the death of his wife, Pat Kavanagh. It centres on:

“the loss of shared vocabulary, of tropes, teases, short cuts, in-jokes, sillinesses, faux rebukes, amatory footnotes — all those obscure references rich in memory but valueless if explained to an outsider.”

It takes a great writer to articulate it so well. 

Barnes also describes the moment when it became “less likely” that he would kill himself because he realised that she was still alive in his memory. “I was her principal rememberer … I could not kill myself because then I would also be killing her. She would die a second time.”


  1. Charles

    To each his world is private
    and in that world one excellent minute.

    And in that world one tragic minute
    These are private.

    In any man who dies there dies with him
    his first snow and kiss and fight
    it goes with him.

    (Yevgeny Yevtushenko)

    So Mr Barnes carries forward the private minutes of their life together, and those who knew both of them still find her in him, every time they meet.

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