Whose Englishness is it anyway?

Originally published by the Journal of American, British and Canadian Studies. Berberich, Christine (2009) “A peculiarly English idiosyncrasy?”: Julian Barnes’s use of lists in England, England. American, British and Canadian Studies, 13. pp. 75-87. ISSN 1841-1487 Republished by kind permission.
Christine Berberich
4 January 2012

‘Englishness’ has been a popular term for the past decade. A look into any publisher’s catalogue will immediately discover a wide variety of titles dedicated to the topic of English national identity. These can be very specific – such as, for example, The Politics of Englishness, The Englishness of English Dress, or Landscape and Englishness, or tend towards the more general, all-encompassing, such as Englishness Identified or, quite simply, Englishness (i). Add to this the almost overwhelming number of books dedicated to England and things English – ranging, to name but a few, from Watching the English and England: an Elegy to Identity of England, An Imaginary England, Real England or Eating for England – and one would be forgiven to think that everything there is to know about England, the English and Englishness has been covered, written and analysed (ii). Still, new titles keep arriving; and still, the answer to the question ‘what does it mean, in the twenty-first century, to be English’ has proven elusive.

This, of course, immediately gives rise to yet another question: is it actually possible, or even desirable, to find a definite answer to ‘the English question’? Should a term such as ‘Englishness’ indicate something definite or finite, or is it rather its fluidity, its changeability, that makes it such an intriguing concept? The following essay does by no means attempt to find an answer to the above question. Instead, it sets out to show how one contemporary novelist tackles issues of national identity and belonging by setting up his readers’ expectations only to then challenge and subvert them.

Julian Barnes’ Booker-prize short-listed novel England England of 1998 is a playful, almost irreverent deconstruction of preconceived and traditional ideas about national identity (iii). The novel is structured into three parts that follow the life of its main protagonist, Martha Cochrane, as she first recounts her early childhood memories; then her rise and fall as manager of the theme park England England, a ‘reconstruction’ of England in the Isle of Wight; and finally her old age in a forgotten corner of old England called ‘Anglia’. While the beginning and concluding part of the novel are realist in their narrative tone, the middle and longest part of the novel is postmodern in that it blends a variety of techniques and philosophical ideas. My essay will firstly focus on Barnes’ use – some might call it over-indulgent use – of the narrative device of the list; it will then look at the novel’s technique and conclude that that in itself resembles a list with the result that Barnes seems to be satirising his own novel.

The narrative device of ‘the list’, and here in particular its use in attempts to define and explain national identity, deserves some elaboration. When all else fails, a simple listing of things, events and people one associates with a particular country can be offered in place of a proper definition. Dominic Head has pointed out the “empirical habit of cultural commentators who resort to lists of things that might define that national character by drawing together its disparate elements” (iv).The list of writers and cultural commentators who have made use of such lists is long and eclectic, ranging from John Betjeman, who famously conjured up “the Church of England, eccentric incumbents, oil-lit churches, Women’s Institutes, modest village inns, arguments about cow parsley on the altar, the noise of mowing machines on Saturday afternoons […] branch-line trains, light railways, leaning on gates and looking across fields” (v), and George Orwell, whose image of “old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning” (vi) has since been appropriated for nostalgic evocations of England’s past greatness, most famously by John Major in the 1990s; to otherwise seemingly more forward-looking and cynical commentators such as Jeremy Paxman who, in 1998, compiled a list of things English containing “village cricket and Elgar […] punk, street fashion, irony, vigorous politics, brass bands, Shakespeare, Cumberland sausages, double-decker buses, Vaughan Williams, Donne and Dickens, twitching net curtains, breast-obsession, quizzes and crosswords […]” (vii). Paxman’s list is particularly interesting as it departs, in some respects, from the ‘typical’ list of Englishness that often focuses on purely rural England – see, for example, Betjeman’s focus on villages and rural churches. Paxman not only combines the rural with the urban, but also offers an intriguing blend of objects, places, names and attitudes that shows just how much and how many different aspects there are to Englishness.

The internet has recently also proven to be a valuable research tool on Englishness as a plethora of websites dedicated to debating Englishness have sprung up. Prominent among these are the Open Democracy Net’s ‘Our Kingdom’ section that is dedicated, as a blog space, to the “future of the United Kingdom” (viii), and the “Icons” site which, in its own words, tries to offer “a portrait of England” (ix). Aim of the Icons website is to offer its users a list of markers of Englishness – but to allow its users to vote them either ‘in’ or ‘out’. As such, the Icons website is not as prescriptive as the above selective lists but offers more active involvement by individuals, who can also ‘nominate’ new icons for general vote.


Of particular interest in this context is the website “What England Means to Me” which offers an ongoing debate and dialogue and attempts to compile a “Domesday Book” of contemporary feelings, opinions and attitudes about Englishness (x). Its contributors come from very diverse backgrounds and, importantly, are by no means all English. “What England Means to Me” brings together political commentators, practicing politicians, academics, socialist activists, farmers and many more, and, looking through the entries, what stands out most is the diversity of them which clearly shows that ‘Englishness’ is a term difficult to pinpoint, and of immense subjective meaning and importance. However, I would like to focus on the following two entries. The Conservative MP John Redwood, for example, depicts England as

a summer’s day by a river in a wooded valley, an afternoon on the cricket field, strawberries at Wimbledon, and well kept gardens in leafy suburbs. It is seeing Shakespeare enacted at the Globe, hearing William Byrd and Handel. It is a way of life and a way of thinking. At their best Englishmen and women believe in fair play, freedom and tolerance (xii).

Scilla Cullen, the Chairwoman of the Campaign for an English Parliament, finds that

England is a country of local loyalties and identities, villages where people look after one another, pubs that you can walk into and strike up a conversation, pub gossip; the unique change ringing of our church bells and the church as the focal point of a community, less so nowadays unhappily. Clichés such as the sound of wood on leather on a lazy summer’s afternoon are just as evocative whether or not they are clichés. England means quiet country lanes and villages and that green and pleasant land; a connection with the soil and the farming community; food production, the basis of life (xii).

These are, clearly, two very patriotic statements; and also two statements with considerable political spin: by listing certain things that Redwood and Cullen consider to be particularly English – cricket, strawberries and cream, pretty, suburban gardens, the green and pleasant land – they try to create a sense of community among their readers, or dare one say a sense of complicity down the line of ‘Englishmen and women will know what I mean’. Althouth this might, indeed, be what the terms ‘England’ and ‘Englishness’ conjure up for the two, their choice is extremely selective, tapping into stereotypical, and, potentially, outmoded or at best socially exclusive clichés of Englishness that, inevitably, exclude the majority of readers.

Entries such as the ones above, despite their upper-middle-class and somewhat wistful and backwards-looking, not to say reactionary, take on Englishness, can be linked to the theoretical concept of lieux de mémoire put forward by the French historian Pierre Nora (xiii). Nora differentiates “sites of memory” into environments—milieux—and places—lieux—of memory. For him, history is a construct that presents selective forms of the past. ‘Memory’, by contrast, can be changed and manipulated and is consequently more active. In this respect, Nora’s milieux de mémoire are also devolving: they are the spheres in which we not only live but engage with the past. But to return to the idea of icons of nationhood: these can be seen as Nora’s lieux de mémoire, static, fixed sites of memory, for examples places, pieces of literature, certain persons or landscapes — but always a gateway to the past and to memory. All the previously mentioned lists are, of course, nothing but a manifestation of Nora’s concept of lieux de mémoire and it is important to see that it is selective and suggestive lists such as these that form the backbone to discussions and writing on national identity. If we link Nora’s lieux de mémoire to Benedict Anderson’s concept of nations as imagined communities, then we can see that, for reasons of political spin (not to say power) certain images of a nation are repeatedly conjured up – presumably by those in power – to create a sense of belonging, and a sense of community. Anderson sees nations as “cultural artefacts of a particular kind”, one that requires the willing participation of everybody concerned, to imagine the nation as “a community” (xiv) – and the repeated use of certain images certainly could be seen to help that process along. However, it is also important to realise that it could be abused for political gain and spin. Randall Stephenson has pointed out that “a nation’s sense of identity is inevitably entangled with images it has to adopt in presenting itself to the outside world” (xv), a comment that points at another issue: that there is often a difference between how a nation sees itself, and how it is perceived by others. Crucially, Stephenson suggests that nations then often perpetuate and re-enforce the image others have in order to keep a certain standing in the world or, on a more practical level, to maintain foreign interest and attract tourists.

This is where Barnes’ novel England England comes in as it is a lampooning of the contemporary tourist industry that can also be read as an ironic construct around the notion of ‘lists of Englishness’ or lieux de mémoire to such an extent that it turns it into a self-conscious list of lists. On a personal level, the novel starts with the figure of Martha Cochrane and her attempts to find a sense of national identity as a child: her earliest memory, she claims, is of “sitting on the kitchen floor … and there, spread out… was her Counties of England jigsaw puzzle” (EE, 4). Martha’s attempts to piece together her jigsaw are symbolic of trying to find her own sense of self and, quite literally, her place within her country. The novel’s cover illustration – jigsaw pieces showing the South of England – is indicative of this slow process of building a sense of self and belonging. Once a piece of the jigsaw goes missing – and with ‘Nottinghamshire’ it is a substantial and, crucially, a very central piece – Martha’s developing sense of national identity is disrupted and she appears forever searching, not just for the missing piece but also for her own sense of self.

At school, Martha and the other children are conditioned into a prescribed notion of Englishness encompassed in the historical dates they are required to learn off by heart and repeat to rhythmic clapping:

55BC (clap clap) Roman Invasion

1066 (clap clap) Battle of Hastings

1215 (clap clap) Magna Carta

1512 (clap clap) Henry the Eight (clap clap)

Defender of Faith (clap clap)

culminating in ‘1940 (clap clap) Battle of Britain / 1973 (clap clap) Treaty of Rome’ (EE, 11). This list of ‘important’ historical dates is, like the previously mentioned clichéd stereotypes of Englishness, highly selective, only conveying a sense of a triumphant Englishness that does not leave any space for doubts regarding the supremacy of the nation. In addition, the rhythmical clapping the children have to provide does not allow them time for reflection or, heaven forbid, questioning of the dates and events they are ordered to absorb. Effectively, they are thus turned into little, patriotic automata.

It can be argued that Barnes satirises this ‘conditioning’ when, over almost two pages, he lists the various categories that can be found at an Agricultural Fair, ranging from “Three Carrots – long, Three Carrots – short, Three Turnips – any variety, Five Potatoes – long, Five Potatoes – round” and “Six Eschalots, large red, Six Eschalots, small red, Six Eschalots, large white, Six Eschalots, small white” to such delectable things as “Collection of Vegetable. Six distinct kinds. Cauliflowers, if included, must be shown on stalks” and “Tray of vegetables. Tray may be dressed, but only parsley may be used”, taking in livestock and condiments, to eventually culminate in the dazzling and fragrant display of “Three Dahlias, decorative, over 8’’ – in three vases, Three Dahlias, decorative, 6’’—8’’ – in one vase, Four Dahlias, decorative, 3’’—6’’ – in one vase” and so on (EE, 8—9).


An extensive list such as this so early on in the novel does several things. First of all, it once again reflects Martha’s own childish sense of insecurity, or rather her relief at the believed security these lists – seemingly set in stone – appear to convey: “there was something about the lists – their calm organisation and their completeness – which satisfied her” (EE, 9). Martha seems to feel that only if things have been properly labelled and pigeon-holed do they achieve a sense of proper being: “She felt as if the items laid out before them could not truly exist until she had named and categorised them” (EE, 9). But the passage has a deeper meaning for the novel as a whole as it points at the constructedness of everything: Country Fairs are organised, as the list shows, in an almost regimented manner; Country Fairs, as any tourist brochure of rural areas will confirm, are also representative of a quintessential Englishness, a fact explored in Iain Aitch’s tongue-in-cheek A Fête Worse than Death which promises, in its blurb, yet another “hilarious insight into what it is to be English in the twenty-first century.” (xvi) Barnes’ novel thus shows very early on that ‘Englishness’ is built around rigid pointers of national identity that are themselves artificially constructed and that can, as in the case of artificially arranged vegetables, be taken to extremes. And this notion of the nation as an artificial construct is considerably elaborated on in the rest of the novel.

The personal level of national identity construction is further pursued in the figure of Sir Jack Pitman, the founder of the theme park England, England. Here, too, lists play an important part: Sir Jack is described not simply as a business tycoon, but as an “entrepreneur, innovator, ideas man, arts patron, inner-city revitaliser” (EE, 29), every new title further emphasising his importance. However, as he is a self-made, or, in his case more specifically a ‘self-styled’ man, the list of nouns describing his standing rather gives rise to doubt: why a list of words, where a single one might have sufficed? This might have to do with Sir Jack’s origins which are described as somewhat dubious (xvii) and which might also explain the fact that he always tries his utmost to appear as the stereotypical, upper-class English male, be it in the choice of apparel when going on a country walk clad in – yet another form of a list – a ‘tweed deerstalker, hunter’s jacket, cavalry twills, gaiters, hand-crafted doe-skin boots and fell-walker’s stave. All made in England, of course: Sir Jack was a patriot…’ (EE, 42) or in his taste in braces: ‘He pulled on his after-lunch cigar and snapped his MCC braces: red and yellow, ketchup and egg-yolk. He was not a member of the MCC, and his brace-maker knew better than to ask. For that matter, he had not been to Eton, served in the Guards or been accepted by the Garrick Club; yet he owned the braces which implied as much’ (EE, 30). While Sir Jack considers his own behaviour as that of ‘a rebel at heart… A bit of a maverick. A man who bends his knee to no-one. Yet a patriot at heart’ (EE, 30), it could also be read as the insecure casting around for a recognised identity, for a sense of belonging of the potential outsider, be it the social outsider in class terms, or the outsider in terms of national origin. This is a case of literal self-fashioning according to national stereotypes and could be seen, in the words of Aileen Ribeiro, as “a defiant buying into nationality through clothing.” (xviii) Whether or not this ‘buying’ into English national identity is successful is a different matter; but the fact that a “couple of young hikers” start snickering when seeing him in his walking outfit seems to query it altogether (EE, 42).

Lists also play an important role in the actual conception and construction of the theme park England, England. One of the first lists the reader is confronted with focuses on the search for an island location for the planned theme park:

‘if we are seeking to offer the thing itself, we in turn must go in search of a precious whatsit set in a silver doodah’. … ‘The Scillies?’ … ‘The Channel Islands?’ … ‘Lundy Island?’ … Anglesey was out. The Isle of Man? … ‘There,’ he said, and his curled fist came down like a passport stamp. ‘There.’ ‘The Isle of Wight,’ they answered in straggly unison (EE, 61—2) .

Barnes thus provides a clever geographical frame that works its way around the English coast island by island and that picks up on the image of the Counties of England jigsaw in the first part. Every island is systematically worked through and assessed for its suitability.

The lists also consider “proper English foodstuffs” to serve in the park, approved by the “Gastronomic Sub-Committee”and ranging from “Roast Beef of Old England […] Yorkshire Pudding, Lancashire hotpot, Sussex pond pudding, Coventry isgodcakes, Aylesbury duckling, Brown Windsor Soup, Devonshire splits, Melton Mowbray pie [and] Bedfordshire clangers” to the probably less known and more regional “Hindle Wakes, stargazey pie, wow-wow sauce […] fat rascals, Bosworth jumbles, moggy and parkin” (EE, 90—1). That the reputation of English food in the world is not the best is not a secret; certainly not since French President Chirac’s diatribe against it (xix). The attempt to sell the best of English cuisine to the visiting tourist is consequently understandable. But even in this seemingly innocent line-up of English delicacies there is political spin: traditional dishes such as faggots and fairy cakes are omitted “in case they offended the pink dollar”, spotted dick is renamed “spotted dog” but still discarded from the list, “toad-in-the hole” and “cock-a-leekie” rejected outright (EE, 90—1). In the planned theme park of England, England, not even food is taken for what it really is – food – but it is imbibed with an alleged political message. Political correctness taken a step to far.

The notion of lists culminates in Sir Jack’s market research into clichés of Englishness. “Potential purchasers of Quality Leisure in twenty-five countries had been asked to list six characteristics, virtues or quintessences which the word England suggested to them” (EE, 83). The result is the so-called “Fifty Quintessences of Englishness” that include predictable markers of identity such as the Royal Family, the Houses of Parliament, the White Cliffs of Dover and Thatched Cottages, pubs and cups of tea, but also such unexpected and negative ones as hypocrisy, perfidy, whingeing, emotional frigidity, flagellation, and bad underwear (EE, 83—85).

While Barnes’ list of Englishness is very amusing and, potentially, very enlightening, it once again hints at an unsavoury truth: who does, in fact, decide what IS and ISN’T a marker of national identity? Sir Jack’s reaction when going through the list is telling: ‘Sir Jack prodded a forefinger down Jeff’s list again, and his loyal growl intensified with each item he’d crossed off. This wasn’t a poll, it was barefaced character assassination. Who the fuck did they think they were, going around saying things like that about England? His England. What did they know?’ (EE, 86). By crossing things off the list, Sir Jack immediately designates himself as the ‘Creator’ of the new ‘country’ of England, England and shows that the choice of markers of national identity is, by force, subjective and selective. He does, consequently, not reconstruct England, but simply constructs a very personal version of it. (xx)


The result is frightening. The Isle of Wight quickly loses all sense of identity and is being turned into an England in Miniature – an ironic stab by Barnes at the island itself that has, over the years, repeatedly marketed itself as just that, an England in miniature. Natural features are blotted out or bulldozed over, to be replaced by copies of the originals that can be found – but suddenly lose their interest – all over England. The theme park with its method actors that buy whole-heartedly into the ideology of the project soon surpasses the original and England herself sinks into ignominy. Barnes’ novel thus perfectly applies Baudrillard’s three stages of postmodernity: it starts with the simulation – the building of the theme park – which leads to a blurring and finally implosion of the boundaries between reality and the simulated. The original world – i.e. England herself – is replaced by the simulation which leads to a hyperreality. The warning signs for this come very early in the novel when Sir Jack – who assumes almost god-like characteristics – grand-eloquently warns his employees that ‘I could have you replaced with substitutes, with … simulacra … quickly’ (EE, 31). The novel thus, in the words of Frederick Holmes, “deconstructs the very concept of authenticity, showing how it is inextricably mixed with and dependent upon inauthenticity” (xxi) which is a more positive reading of England England than Matthew Pateman’s comment that England England is all about “the quotation of history, of people, of places, of things.” (xxii).

Pateman, incidentally, flatly condemns England England for the similarities, both structurally and content-wise, it bears to Barnes’ preceding work: “What was perhaps […] surprising, from an author whose work had previously seemed so fresh and new, was the extent to which the novel also seemed to rehearse ideas and themes already encountered in previous of his novels in a fashion that was also very similar to earlier treatments.” (xxiii) He elaborates that England England employs a similar structure as Metroland or Staring at the Sun, and that Barnes reiterates content from earlier novels, such as A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters which he sees reflected in Martha’s “Brief History of Sexuality”. (xxiv) This leads him to suggest that Barnes is “himself deploying the strategies of simulacra, inauthenticity, and fake in order to tell a story of simulacra, inauthenticity, and fake.” (xxv) While Pateman considers this an unsuccessful experiment, I would like to argue that it is one that is perfectly in keeping with Barnes’ use of the list. His use of lists quite simply exceeds mere lists depicting national identity. The self-referentiality to his own work, plus the use of a wide variety of techniques such as parody and pastiche, the switch in narrative mode from realism in the first and last section, to postmodern experiment in the second, as well as the recreation of a pastoral elegy in the final part show Barnes’ conscious engagement with the idea of simulation. While the idea of national identity and its artificial construction and perpetuation clearly stand at the foreground of England England, the whole novel in itself turns into a very clever ‘list’ in its own right.

To conclude, I would like to come back full circle and refer you back to the website of What England Means to Me where Gareth Young, one of the editors, wrote:

The England of the mind’s eye, that England that exists in our imaginations, is a schizophrenic construction drawn from often conflicting ideas of England. There is the Romantic’s England, that of the bucolic shire, the pastoral idyll of stone cottages, winding lanes, parish churches, hedgerows and patchwork fields; there is the Nationalist’s England of Imperial institutions like Monarchy, Parliament, Civil Service, Military, and then; there is the Idealist’s England, the idea of England itself, Habeas Corpus, Freedom of thought and expression, Individualism, Tolerance, Democracy. All too often these imaginings contrast with the reality of England, a place in which we not only fail to build a new Jerusalem but seem to move ever farther from the England of our mind’s eye. (xxvi)

Barnes’ novel plays with these notions of various ‘schizophrenic construction[s] drawn from often conflicting ideas of England’. He uses traditional and acknowledged – rightly or wrongly – icons of Englishness and deconstruct them for his own means. By building his novel around different lists of Englishness, he not only ridicules this idea in the first place – in fact, Aileen Ribeiro writes that ‘perhaps the making of such lists (‘listism’?) is a peculiarly English idiosyncrasy?’ (xxvii) – but also shows up those lists precisely for what they are: artificial constructs that, maybe, help to convey a few stereotypes of the nation but are not more than that, and should be recognised for all their shortcomings. And those shorcomings are clear to see: most of the markers of Englishness compiled in the “50 Quintessences” are traditional, backward-looking, and nostalgic. The theme park of England England does thus not provide a version of a contemporary England in miniature, but rather one of an England of times gone by, and thus potentially a mythical version of England. As Nick Bentley has pointed out, England England is devoid of “any sense of a future England.” (xxviii) Barnes consequently highlights the shortcomings of the tourism and especially the so-called heritage industry that, in the effort to instil any sense of patriotism and identity instead turn the past into a theme park, something artificial, constructed and, effectively, highly non-representational of ‘the real thing’.

Originally published by the Journal of American, British and Canadian Studies. Berberich, Christine (2009), “A peculiarly English idiosyncrasy?”: Julian Barnes’s use of lists in England, England. American, British and Canadian Studies, 13. pp. 75-87. ISSN 1841-1487. Republished by kind permission.

Dr Christine Berberich is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Portsmouth University. 



i) See Arthur Aughey, The Politics of Englishness (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), Christopher Breward, Becky Conekin & Caroline Cox (eds), The Englishness of English Dress (Oxford: Berg, 2002), David Matless, Landscape and Englishness (London: Reaktion Books, 1998), Wendy Webster, Englishness and Empire 1939—1965 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Paul Langford, Englishness Identified. Manners and Character 1650--1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), Simon Featherstone, Englishness. Twentieth-Century Popular Culture and the Forming of English Identity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009)

ii) Kate Fox, Watching the English. The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004), Roger Scruton, England: an Elegy (London: Chatto & Windus, 2000), Robert Colls, Identity of England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), Roger Ebbatson, An Imaginary England. Nation, Landscape and Literature 1840 – 1920 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), Paul Kingsnorth, Real England. The Battle against the Bland (London: Portobello Books Ltd., 2008), Nigel Slater, Eating for England. The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table (London: Fourth Estate, 2007).

iii) Julian Barnes, England England (London: Jonathan Cape, 1998). All further references parenthetically within the text.

iv) Dominic Head, “Julian Barnes and a Case of English Identity” in Philip Tew & Rod Mengham (eds), British Fiction Today (London: Continuum, 2006), 19.

v) John Betjeman, “Oh, to be in England,” The Listener 29.739 (11 March 1943): 296.

vi) George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn. Socialism and the English Genius (London: Secker & Warburg, 1941).

vii) Jeremy Paxman, The English. A Portrait of a People (London: Michael Joseph, 1998), 22—23.

viii) See



xi) John Redwood at

xii) Scilla Cullen at

xiii) Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,’ Representations 26 (1989): 7—24.

xiv) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983; 1991; London: Verso, 1998), 4, 7.

xv) Randall Stephenson, The Last of England? Oxford English Literary History Series, Volume 12 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 47.

xvi) See, for example, the extremely detailed website of the Great Yorkshire Show with all its intricate entry requirements at and the website of the Association of Show & Agricultural Organisations ASAO at . See also Iain Aitch’s exploration of Englishness in A Fête too Far. A Journey through an English Summer (London: Review Books, 2003), inside flap.

xvii) Speculation ranges from a ‘Mitteleuropäisch tinge’ to his original name to rumours that he was born ‘east of the Rhine’ as the illegitimate child of ‘the shirebred wife of a Hungarian glass manufacturer and a visiting chauffeur from Loughborough’ and the conspiracy theory that he was born ‘the son of a humble Mr and Mrs Pitman, long since paid off’ (EE, 33). Crucially, Sir Jack does his best to promote the myth surrounding his origins.

xviii) Ribeiro, ‘On Englishness in Dress,’ 17.

xix) See

xx) See here also my article “England? Whose England? (Re)constructing English identities in Julian Barnes and W.G. Sebald”, National Identities 10.2 (2008, June): 167—84

xxi) Frederick M. Holmes, Julian Barnes (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 93.

xxii) Matthew Pateman, Julian Barnes (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2002), 78.

xxiii) Pateman, Julian Barnes, 72.

xxiv) See Pateman, Julian Barnes, 73ff.

xxv) Pateman, Julian Barnes, 75.

xxvi) Gareth Young at

xxvii) Ribeiro, ‘On Englishness in Dress’, 15.

xxviii) Nick Bentley, Contemporary British Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008),184.

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