Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Julian Barnes on the death of his wife Pat Kavanagh.

Posted in Julian Barnes on grief by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 30, 2013

Emma Brockes, writing in today’s Guardian Saturday 30th april 2013 about Julian Barnes’ new book which is she says “ part essay, part short story, part memoir but, above all, it’s a love story dedicated to – and about – Pat Kavanagh, his wife, who died in 2008″ Julian Barnes: The sense of another ending

Julian Barnes and Pat Kavanagh

In his new book, Levels of Life, he writes of the grief he felt, and still feels, following the death of his wife, Pat Kavanagh. It centres on:

“the loss of shared vocabulary, of tropes, teases, short cuts, in-jokes, sillinesses, faux rebukes, amatory footnotes — all those obscure references rich in memory but valueless if explained to an outsider.”

Barnes also describes the moment when it became “less likely” that he would kill himself because he realised that she was still alive in his memory. “I was her principal rememberer … I could not kill myself because then I would also be killing her. She would die a second time.”

Pat Kavanagh was a literary agent born in Durban South Africa. Carmen Callil in her obituary of her wrote: She was small, with an exquisite face and beautiful cheek bones. Her mouth was of the kind you see in Florence, adorning a quantity of Madonnas.

For this reason, particularly as a young woman, she was pursued by all and sundry. Some of those who came under her spell were prone to exaggerate her interest in such matters, for it would be true to say that her combination of great beauty, business efficiency and wit made her in certain ways a sorceress. She was such a presence. People longed for Pat’s approval – and love.

All this became but marginal gossip after she met the writer Julian Barnes in 1978. They married on September 1 1979. At this point, Julian was publishing his first novel, Metroland, with Jonathan Cape. Liz Calder, later the founder editor of Bloomsbury Publishing, was, and remained for some years, Julian’s publisher. She remembers looking out of the window of her Bedford Square office watching Pat and Jules, who had just met, walking down the square, holding hands and laughing.










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