Wednesday 16 November 2016

Quotable Brookner

The Internet likes its aphorisms, and Brookner is a reliable if idiosyncratic source. Many quotes derive from Hotel du Lac - the famous hare and tortoise passage, for example - and others from the available interviews. Brookner gave a mere handful of interviews in her time, and only a few have found a home on the web.

Below are links to several such exchanges. The Paris Review piece, a classic early example, not as extreme as the Haffenden debacle, but still astonishing, includes an example of Brookner's handwriting.

Link to 1987 Paris Review interview

The second, from the 1990s, follows the publication of A Private View. It contains interesting material about Brookner's family, and indicates the state of critical opinion at the time: Brookner is to be considered alongside Elizabeth Bowen and Barbara Pym, if not Proust or James. The interviewer's tone is a little condescending.

Link to 1994 Independent interview

The rest of the examples are from the 2000s. The first is from 2001, a brief breezy affair. Brookner seems less concerned now with the image she gives. She's more defiant, surer of her ground, perhaps less likely to be hurt.

Link to 2001 Observer interview

The next is from the following year. It's an in-depth exchange, very respectful. Brookner is now to be placed with the likes of Sebald and Beckett. In an age of sentimental uplift, writes Tonkin, Brookner's message grows more scandalous and subversive with every book. Ah yes, he's got it.

Link to 2002 Independent interview

The last interview is Mick Brown's from 2009. Brookner is accorded full respect now. She may retread old ground, but that is the case with all her interviews. They were performances, for which she had prepared, and she knew her lines.

Link to 2009 Telegraph interview

(We may return to the topic of Brookner's interviews, especially to those such as the Haffenden exchange that aren't available on the Internet. Interviews gave Brookner a form and a platform she didn't exploit elsewhere. There was never going to be an autobiography. But were not her novels her autobiography? We can say that now, in this age of autofiction. And the interviews, likewise, were, as I say, performances - calm and deliberate, and perhaps as fictional as the fiction.)

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