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.'
'Darkly mordant': Anita Brookner
(Jane Bown, Guardian)

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