Saturday, 6 May 2017

As One Might Smoke a Cigar

I picked up a book from the pile on the table at my elbow, and read, 'Lacking more serious occupations since 1814, I write, as one might smoke a cigar after dinner, in order to pass the time.' I put the book down again, disheartened by this dandyish attitude, so impossibly urbane as to be permanently beyond my reach.
A Friend from England, ch. 7

The line about the cigar is from Stendhal, but I've never located it. I have The Life of Henry Brulard on my shelves but I've had no luck with that. The Journals? The Correspondence?

It's not an especially relevant line; Rachel isn't a writer. But she thinks of herself as a dandy, so that's probably it. It's more a case of an author putting forward one of her own enthusiasms. But it is also a case of something Brookner has form for: undercutting and demythologising the very activity she's engaged in. Time and again Brookner finds ways of sneering at the strange second career she enjoyed so much success in. One recalls her words to Sue MacGregor in 2011:
Sue MacGregor: Anita, what did the Courtauld give you?
Anita Brookner: A whole life, really. Everything that came after ... was ... very dull.
SM: Even the success as a writer?
AB: Oh, that was far less interesting!
SM: Really?
AB: Yes - yes!

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