Sunday 25 December 2016

Brookner at the Booker #2

Further to an earlier post:

It had been widely predicted and even firmly stated that the winner would be J G Ballard’s The Empire of the Sun. In the event, the prize went to Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. As it happens, Brookner, along with Carmen Callil, had come to supper with my partner and me the previous Saturday, an evening mainly devoted to talking about a now forgotten writer, Edith Templeton.* As Brookner left at the end of the evening, I called after her, 'Good luck next Thursday'. This was not well received: 'You of all people ought to know that I was very lucky to have been shortlisted. There's no likelihood whatsoever of my winning. Good night.' 
Martyn Goff, ‘Playing Silly Bookers’, New Statesman, 23 October 1998 

My own first taste of this experience was in 1984, with Small World. Like everybody else, I expected J G Ballard to win with Empire of the Sun. No one was more astonished than Anita Brookner when Richard Cobb announced that the prize had gone to her Hotel du Lac
Afterwards, in the crypt bar, the Labour MP Ted Rowlands, one of the judges, told me that they had been very divided in their final session, and that Polly Devlin had carried the day for Brookner with an impassioned speech in which she quoted from my complimentary review** of Brookner’s previous novel, printed on the back side of Hotel du Lac.
David Lodge, Diary, New Statesman, 6 November 1998

* 'I am apostolic about the novels of Edith Templeton, a Czech who writes in impeccable English: they are extremely restrained and tell strong stories about life in old-style central Europe, with recognizable passions and follies. Lovely, lovely novels.' Haffenden interview

** 'I cannot praise too highly this novel's poise, perceptiveness and purity of style.' Sunday Times

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