‘Hygiene’ by Julian Barnes

It is curious what remains after we close the pages of a book. Julian Barnes is one of those writers I once liked and grew away from as I discovered writers that spoke more directly to me. Though I am sure I couldn’t bear to reread Hygiene, it has stayed with me, an odd and discomfiting story about an old retired major that comes to London once a year for a regimental dinner and to visit a retired prostitute. I no longer have the book, but looked it up the other day while in a bookshop and was shocked by the paucity of the story. I think the story stays with me because it evokes my father’s depression and insecurity, though he would never have hidden behind the fruity military language.

From The Lemon Table, Cape, 2004

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