Friday 6 January 2017

Brookner lights up

Her exquisite manners disarm and put visitors at ease, and at the same time secure a reasonable distance. She speaks in a deep, gentle voice with fluency and deliberation in equal measure, and sometimes in 'short, military sentences,' as she once said of Stendhal. Occasionally she smokes a very slim cigarette.
Shusha Guppy's introduction to the 1987 Paris Review interview

Her reasonableness is disarming: When I said that I was worried about her smoking, she replied 'So am I' and lit another one, thus acknowledging my concern while indicating that it was none of my business.
Shusha Guppy, 'The Secret Sharer', World and I, July 1998

'Oh, Katie, we must do something about that fringe,' she would say, offering me one of her untipped Woodbine cigarettes and balancing a small tin on her knee as an ashtray.

Katie Law, Evening Standard: see an earlier Brooknerian post.

Lunch never took longer than 75 minutes; she usually ordered fish, then black coffee, with which she would smoke two cigarettes. (For quite a while these were Sovereign, a sort of low-rent Benson & Hedges: it was the only less than stylish accoutrement I ever noted about her.)
Julian Barnes, Guardian

I've been racking my brains. Which Brookner characters are smokers? I can't remember a single reference. A Private View's Katy Gibb, perhaps?

Might this be a fruitful line of enquiry? Smoking as a signifier of insiderliness, an indication of Brookner's true allegiances?


  1. Alex comments:
    In Chapter 10 (p.114 of my book) of 'The Bay of Angels', Zoë says "Then I sat down, ate wolfishly, drank two cups of coffee and smoked two cigarettes. I rarely smoked, since I regarded smoking as an act of defiance, but now I was impenitent." That seems to me very Brooknerian and in line with what Shusha Guppy said. Regards, Alex.

  2. I like the 'wolfishly'. George Bland in A Private View, I recall, was said to be lycanthropic.


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