The pain and irony of death in Julian Barnes's Memoirs Nothing to Be Frightened Of and Levels of Live
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Julian Barnes is one of the best-known contemporary British authors, not only for his taste for formal experimentation well-documented in the novels and short stories he has published since the 1980s, but also for his obsession with death. Despite the fact that death - as a prime concern expressed through his characters' discussions, particularly when they are in their old age - has been present in most of Barnes fictional works, the topic becomes centre-stage in the two memoirs that he has published, namely, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008) and Levels of Life (2013). In his memoirs, Barnes connects his personal experience with the works of philosophers and writers and with the experiences of those around him with the aim of trying to discern how he himself and, by extension, his own contemporaries and Western society have dealt with death. For Barnes, writing becomes a therapy to confront his own existential fears as well as traumatic experiences - such as the sudden death of his wife as described in Levels of Life - at the same time that he reflects on the place death occupies in contemporary times.