Thursday, 2 February 2017

Primal Scenes

The plots of several early Brookners focus on deluded central characters whose romantic hopes are dashed by cruel revelations. The novels end on or soon after the moment of revelation, which figures for the protagonist as a species of primal scene. A later example is found in Chapter 19 of Undue Influence (1999):
This was the one connection I had failed to make. It was the greatest failure of my life and no future success could ever obliterate it.
Such plot structures probably had a personal resonance for Anita Brookner, a significance we can only guess at. There was, perhaps,'some jamming of the emotions' that forced the reenactment of a particular situation, as Larkin said in his essay on Housman ('All Right When You Knew Him', Required Writing).

But in The Bay of Angels (2001), when the familiar plot is given another outing, it is in radically telescoped form. All in the course of a single chapter, Zoe Cunningham begins a deluded relationship, experiences a moment of revelation, and begins the process of recovery. Perhaps by 2001 Brookner had in some measure worked the thing through, whatever it was; and writing had provided her with the therapy she had never believed it capable of.

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