Bookends: Oct. 30, 1989

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 10 1/2 CHAPTERS

by Julian Barnes

Knopf; 307 pages; $18.95

The tone of the title -- both grandiose and self-mocking -- accurately reflects the contents. Julian Barnes, whose third novel, Flaubert's Parrot (1985), earned an army of readers outside his native Britain, has here gathered a collection of prose pieces, nominally fiction, that cohere chiefly by virtue of being bound together in one book. The affair kicks off with a termite's view of the adventures of Noah and his ark. (Noah, it turns out, was not a particularly nice fellow, and his epic voyage was...

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