This paper is an examination of the postmodern writer’s dilemma: Should a writer be good by serving a higher literary purpose or by playing to the book market? Unlike those who have been writing merely two centuries ago, the literary reputation of writers today rest fundamentally on financial success. The career and the works of British writer Julian Barnes closely reflect his struggle with this dilemma. On the one hand, Barnes writes “serious” works in the sense that they are crafted with a “literary” purpose in mind. On the other hand, his pseudonymous alter-ego, Kavanagh writes “popular” works that are aimed at making some quick cash. Although Barnes’ growing oeuvre evidences an egotistical conciliation between the “serious” writer and the “popular” writer, they are never far from suggesting that the struggle is near the surface and the differences are more insurmountable than can be seen at first glance.
KEY WORDS: postmodernism, literature, “popular” fiction, “serious” fiction, aesthetics, novel