Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Women's Movement

'Look at it from his point of view, Zoe. He is of a different generation. As, I suppose, I am.' 
'That argument doesn't hold water. All women are in the same boat now. The Women's Movement...' 
'Yes, I have heard of it,' she said drily. 
'We're free now,' I went on. We don't have to respect men, be grateful to them. It's their turn to respect women, to allow them some space...' 
'Oh, yes, I've heard of that space. What will you all do in it, apart from complain?'

We know from interviews that Anita Brookner did not identify as a feminist ('I don't read Spare Rib or anything like that,' she told John Haffenden), and indeed was at times dismissive of the movement. Zoe and her mother's telephone quarrel in Chapter 5 of The Bay of Angels summarises something of the debate Brookner engages in elsewhere in her fiction. Fiction is one thing, interviews are another. In fiction Brookner has the leave or perhaps the room to be ambiguous, to explore contradictions, to allow herself the luxury of being unsure. It is not, here, just about feminism. It is about the wider question of Brooknerianism. Zoe and her mother's exchange is an example of the author's ludic playing off of allegiances. It's an old question with Brookner, which I've highlighted before: Just whose side is she on?

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