The Lemon Table as a Collection of Stories of Absence

In his collection of short stories, Julian Barnes mainly focuses on the themes of loss and death. Through their stories, Barnes’ characters are depicted in glimpses in their long journey which is from their early life to their very old age. Starting from the very first story titled “A Short History of Hairdressing,” the main character’s kind of metamorphosis into an old man is narrated with ruptures and gaps which seem to be loopholes to be completed for the reader. That the narrator leaves these means of evasion can be evaluated in light of Derrida’s reversal of the traditional ordered pairs like presence/absence. While the first term is viewed as primary and original, the second one is derivative in the Western epistemology. Yet, for Derrida this priority is not intact and can easily be reversed as both the primary and the secondary terms are dependent on each other while bearing the traces of one another. In this axis of binary oppositions, man is associated with either presence or primary; on the contrary, woman is absent or subordinate. In the stories under scrutiny here, male protagonists are fully depicted and most of their actions are mostly legitimized. However, female characters are not let contribute to the flow of the fiction; that is, they are accessories and almost show no presence. In this hierarchical space, women is naturally degraded, which in turn prevents men from achieving any kind of intersubjectivity with anyone. Thus, the course of events including even some of the most intimate details about the characters act as a screen for absence; that is, they fail to give any worthy information about them. The so-called presence of incidents is indeed absence. In this light, it can be concluded that what goes on or what does not go in Barnes’ stories can be discovered amidst the slippery ground where the primary and the secondary terms are reversed and intermingled.


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B. Doğan, “The Lemon Table as a Collection of Stories of Absence,” 2018, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: