Saturday 22 October 2011

Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. I don't have a copy yet, but I have read several of his earlier books (Flaubert's Parrot is my favourite).

I once spent the best part of two days in the company of Julian Barnes, entirely be accident. It was when I went to see the first two games of the Kasparov v Short World Chess Championship match in 1993.

Kasparov and Short
Reunited in London earlier in the week

The match was played at the Savoy Theatre and the press room was in Simpsons in the Strand (venue for the much-missed series of Staunton Memorial tournaments).

It wasn't my first time behind the scenes, but I was feeling more than a little starstruck in the company of so many famous players. On the first day, I took a seat in a quiet corner to acclimatise. I was soon joined by Julian Barnes, who sat down and started to make notes. We started talking and he asked me the names of all the people present and what position each one had in the world of chess. I didn't know who Julian was (in those days, most of my attention was devoted purely to chess; thankfully, that has changed immeasurably) and consequently felt relaxed in his company. We had a number of chats over the two days.

As I was about to leave, I decided to use up the rest of the film on my camera (yes, this was back in the days of 24 shots and a trip to a high street shop to obtain prints). The last one I took was this one.

Julian Barnes and Colin Crouch
Brian Clivaz is in the background
The position on the board is from Game 2

Later, as I filed my report on the match for the Teesside Herald & Post and Julian Barnes did the same for The New Yorker (the article is reproduced in his book Letters from London). We didn't mention each other in our respective reports. It was only a year or so later I suddenly found out who he was, when I was surprised to see 'the man I met at Simpsons' being interviewed on TV. I wonder if we'll ever meet again?

For all things Julian Barnes, please pop along to his official website.

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