Cross Channel, Julian Barnes (1996)

A collection of short stories about Brits in France, one of which features a neophyte professional cyclist

Jonathan Cape 0 330349112 Paperback 211pp £7.99

Britain’s relationship with France and the French is one that has had relatively little literary consideration. Perhaps for that reason, Barnes chose this as the theme for this collection of short stories. In one of these, Brambilla, a young English couple move to the other side of the channel so that he can pursue a career as a professional cyclist.

It is a short piece of just 13 pages, in which intersperses each of their perspectives, written in the first person. Clearly Barnes knows something of the cycling, and his exploration of the pressures of being a journeyman sporting pro and how it might effect a relationship is an intriguing perspective.

Like a lot of short stories, however, Barnes manages to flick a couple of interesting concepts in the air – the transition from fan to pro, and the juxtaposition of him – a professional sportsman, and her, dancing on some manner of chorus line. There is not the space, however, to achieve much resolution.

PS Mar 10


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