Wednesday 15 March 2017

Last Lines

Traditional or progressive? Brookner is commonly described as the former. A study of Brookner's endings can be instructive in this regard.

A number of her novels begin in a notional present and then move into the past. By the end the narrative has returned to the beginning. The ending isn't perhaps in a lot of doubt, though there may be shocks and surprises along the way. Falling Slowly is an example of this kind of novel.

Others - A Private View, for example - are presented more chronologically. George Bland has his adventure, and at the end at least a version of the status quo is restored.

At the sentence level, several of the novels attempt a moment of epiphany (e.g. Fraud), often delivering a not always persuasive, or earned, sense of hope (Leaving Home ends like this).

What we don't find, except possibly in Incidents in the Rue Laugier, is (Middlemarch-style) a rundown of the Nachgeschichte, details of the various characters' ultimate fates.

Aspects of Brookner's practice, then, are more modern, and less traditional, than we might suppose.


And my favourite Brookner ending? It's probably the closing lines of Brief Lives, I guess - Brookner at her most darkly mordant:
So irrelevant did her death seem that I almost looked forward to discussing it with her, felt something like a quickening of interest. 'What was it like?' I should have asked. 'Not all that bad,' I can hear her say in her most famously throw-away tone. 'You might give it a try one of these days.'

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