Tuesday 12 September 2017

Brookner Interview Discoveries #3: Novelist with a Double Life

The last of my discoveries, 'Novelist with a Double Life', admittedly more of a 'profile' than a fresh interview, is from the Observer on 7 August 1988, marking the publication of Latecomers.

Latecomers, we learn, has no author biography on its dustjacket, no rundown of the recently retired Brookner's academic achievements. 'That's over,' she says. 'It is no longer relevant. I've consigned it to the past.'

But that past is celebrated, in particular her kindness as a teacher. 'To be taught by Anita was to be loved by Anita - you had to accept both,' says an unnamed ex-student.

Balancing the academic and novel-writing sides of her life became like 'schizophrenia'. A friend recalls: 'In the same week that she published her scholarly monograph on David, on which she'd been working for years, she got far more publicity about a review she'd written in the TLS about a cookery book ..., saying "Yuk!"'

A colleague remembers her elation at winning the Booker Prize, speaking of the 'kilowatts coming off her': 'She positively glowed.'

Brookner 'considers herself a person of extravagance and excess', and is unfailingly generous: 'If you go out for a coffee, you find it quite hard to pay for the KitKats* when it's your turn,' says a friend.

Though not religious she 'likes and shares the "geniality" of her race. "I don't think anyone could call me cheerful. But I'm quite content."' On Christmas Day she helps serve lunch to patients in a nearby hospital.

She continues her search for the 'ideal, perfect, appropriate home': 'But I think the great step forward is the knowledge that I will never find it. But I will always seek it.'


*Oddly enough, this is not the only mention in the Brookner literature of this popular biscuit. See also here.

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