Tuesday 7 January 2020

Brookner's Will

Anita Brookner featured somewhat incongruously in the British media this weekend when details of her last will and testament were emblazoned across a page of the Mail on Sunday and here on the Mail Online site. No other papers picked up the story, though I think the Express may have run with it on the following day. Incongruous again.

In fact it was thin enough to be a non-story. The main point seemed to be that she'd left the bulk of her estate to the medical charity Médecins sans Frontiéres. Quite why this might be of interest is anyone's guess. There's possibly an undercurrent in the reporting, given that the subject of foreign aid isn't particularly flavour of the month at either the Mail or the Express.

Brookner's interest in MSF was already known, as an earlier Brooknerian post makes clear (see here). The reason for her interest in the charity isn't clear. But should it be?

Other details in the Mail article are in any case more salient: the references to artworks by Manet, Lear and Romney. I knew about the first two, but not the Romney.* The Manet was his portrait of Baudelaire.** It can be seen on the wall in one or two photos of Brookner.

And then this. Tantalising indeed.
Brookner left her literary agent Bill Hamilton any 'manuscripts, letters, art books and unfinished literary material' which he wanted and requested that all her other papers be destroyed.

* 'I was greeted with a welcoming smile and led into her small, bright drawing room. It overlooks a long, pleasant communal garden, with a huge chestnut tree on one side. On the walls are a few pictures by Edward Lear, an etching portrait of Baudelaire by Manet, and rows of bookshelves.'
 Shusha Guppy, 'The Secret Sharer: A Profile of Anita Brookner', World and I, July 1998

** 'Baudelaire's main criticism of Manet was the latter's desire to arrive and be accepted, a quality far removed from the detachment of the true dandy.'
Brookner, 'Baudelaire', The Genius of the Future

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