What is in the dream of heaven? A review of Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10½ Chapters

Cover of the first edition of Julian Barnes’s A review of Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10½ Chapters from Wikipedia. I claim no ownership to the image.

What is in the dream of heaven? A review of Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10½ Chapters

© Charles Lincoln IV

It’s almost a tear jerker, he asks to see famous people.

So they show movie stars and famous politicians. Then he wants his soccer team to win.

He wants his political party to win.

All the stuff he ever wants happens.

He can even see Hitler from a distance but does not want to go up to him.

And then he asks to see Jesus Christ but they say that can’t be done.


It’s interesting to consider what is heaven. What happens after we die? I mean the idea that we sort of get all our wants for filled and everything is perfect and we live in this perfect world that is personally made for us. Some sort of combination of a resort and a theme park, would we really want that in the long run?

The protagonist himself ends up playing golf for many years and he ends up getting a perfect score and he gets the entire game in one shot and he just does not find fun in life anymore because there’s no more challenge and then he has conversations with the people who seem to be the hosts of the establishment. They say that you sort of have a chance to die when you go to heaven but you need to embrace the chance.

It’s a little bit difficult to discuss because a lot of people have a conception of what the story calls old heaven. Old heaven will be the heaven that we generally associate with have them. They say they’re used to be all believers and those would be the believers who stayed the longest. Those who pursued the temporary pleasures of life in heaven they realize that once they had everything they weren’t happy.

It’s interesting to me because this reminds me of a twilight zone episode where there is a protagonist who goes to heaven and all his demands are met and he is sort of a criminal in real life and he is becoming a gangster he dies and he becomes this pure gangster he always wins he always gets all the partners he wants and he always gets everything he wants he’s rich he has everything in the world. But at the end of the episode, he asks is host for things to be a little bit difficult. The hostas that can be arranged. But he says he’s not happy and he says why would heaven be like this why would I have everything I want and the host at the end laughs and says what makes you think this is heaven?

So the question is when you die and you go to heaven assuming that happens would all your wants really be fulfilled?

With everything you want really be and truly be fulfilled to you? Or would that be a meaningless life that you would sort of wanna die after everything has been filled. In the story the people who stay the longest are those who are in constant prayer. The sort of old conception of Heaven knows the book calls it. They are the ones who lost the longest the people last the least are those who want temporary closures such as cars and drinking and having what would generally be considered temporary fun. But the eternal blessed nature are those in old heaven.

British writer Julian Barnes in 2019, at HeadRead literary festival in Tallinn. Wikipedia. I claim no ownership. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Barnes

It was an interesting story in the book. Each chapter of the book is sort of a separate story that is different. This one was titled a dream. And it’s unclear whether he’s dreaming about this or he wakes up from it and it’s interesting to consider that this is called a dream because since time in Memorial from the Bible all the way up to Freudian psychoanalysis, dreams dreams are a key part to humanity. But what happens when we die?

Would it really be us going to heaven if we have all our desires for filled and everything we want? Or would that actually be hell? As the twilight zone episode ends with the maniacal laughing of the host.

Perhaps I will end this review by allowing William Shakespeare’s Hamlet to have the last words:


To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. — Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge (1829), a painting by the American painter Thomas Cole. I claim no ownership to this image. It was found on Wikipedia. Much of Julian Barnes’s experimental novel focuses on Noah’s Ark. Perhaps there is something archytpally significant from a Jungian perspective about the deluge.

P.S. Some future thoughts on this blog:

I think I should be putting together reflections on books. I found out that Ryan Holiday actually started off by writing a list of recommended books that he had read and putting those all together as a list. So I thought that was very interesting. So I think I should start putting together these lists as sort of blog posts. Because even Ryan Holiday wrote that he follows blog posts on medium.com and I already started my blog post over there so I could pick up some of these emails that I’ve written to you in the past couple days and create them in to a series of blog those. I would ideally like to have a list of books that I can recommend to people. That would be a really interesting sort of journal entry for personal growth but also being able to recommend books because ultimately when I go on YouTube a lot for is trying to figure out what books people are read

That is to say what types of books people are reading and trying to figure out if it’s worth my time to read it or if it would help me with personal growth. Because I’m constantly trying to read. It’s part of this idea of striving and seeking and continuing to seek to find and not to yield as the Alfred lord Tennyson poem would indicate. So that’s why I think it’s important to keep a list because you can inform other people but also it’s short of represents the idea of us continuing to grow as individuals growing and progressing in the worlds. There’s an idea of what do you intend to do with this knowledge. It’s not melon matter of technical or practical importance but rather what do you intend to do even if you intend to do nothing that is an intention in itself even though it is the negation of the intention if I may speak from the Hegelian in terms of sort of indication of an intention to do some thing and therefore that.

© Charles Edward Andrew Lincoln IV

Edward Hicks, American, 1780–1849 (1780–1849) — Artist/Maker (American)
Born in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, United States. Dead in Newtown, Pennsylvania, United States.
Details of artist on Google Art Project. I claim no ownership to this photo. I found it on Wikipedia.

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Charles Lincon

Charles Lincon

Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, Hegelian dialectics, Attic Greek, masters University of Amsterdam.