Sunday, 27 November 2016

European Habits of Thought

My grandfather on my mother's side saw England as the most liberal country in the world: he adored it and adopted every English mode that he could find. But European habits of thought - melancholy, introspection - persisted, and it's a bad mix: it was thicker than the English air. 
Brookner, interviewed by John Haffenden, Novelists in Interview, 1985

I return, you see, to the Haffenden exchange, the Ur-text for Brookner's several interviews. Periodically I long for Europe, and for middle-Europe in particular. Not that my experiences of the continent aren't perhaps irredeemably touristique

But ah, Mitteleuropa! The place names, the names of streets, the hotels, the modern art galleries! The cosy restaurants and cafés, the railway stations with their boards showing destinations impossibly eastern! The sedate matrons shopping in the morning, the buzz of guttural conversation, the precisely reconstructed town squares! The icy rivers, the large skies, the forests of silver birches, the Autobahns!

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