Memory Revisited in Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending
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An accumulation of years brings with it an accumulation of experiences. The revision of such experiences usually becomes more recurrent after retirement, a transition time from one period of life to another and, as such, a time in which we, human beings, have a tendency to take stock of our lives. This
is actually one of the main issues present in Julian Barnes's last novel The Sense of an Ending (2011). When the main protagonist, a retired man quite comfortable and contented with his present life, receives an unexpected inheritance from the mother of a girlfriend from his university years, he is forced to track down a part of his life that he had left at the back of his mind a long time ago. As he explains his story, the protagonist and narrator of the novel raises a number of questions related to the quality and function of memory as one gets into old age. He experiments the unreliability of memory and questions to what extent memory is constructed through the remembered emotions that invaded him over that episode of his life rather than through the events as they actually took place. On the other hand, the act of revisiting and revising that specific episode, brings with it feelings of guilt and remorse as the protagonist realises that his past acts were not as noble as he remembered them to be. However, these acts are part of the past and they cannot be changed; thus, another question that the novel raises is how to account for those actions of which one does not feel proud and, more importantly, how to manage those bad memories as one gets older.