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The Short Form

“The Story of Mats Israelson”

Julian Barnes

Excerpt

Anders had learned to deal with his wife’s sarcasm by means of pedantry, by answering her questions as if they meant no more than the words they contained. This tended to annoy her further, but for him it was a necessary protection.

“They seem like a nice couple,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“You like everybody.”

“No, my love, I do not think that that is true.” He meant, for instance, that at the present moment he did not like her.

“You are more discriminating about logs than about members of the human race.”

“Logs, my love, are very different from one another.”