Sunday 13 November 2016

The Gloomy Day

Brooknerianism is a way of life. Alone and at a low ebb in Vienna one early spring day, I asked myself: What would a Brooknerian do? And so I headed into the Kunsthistorisches Museum and sat for an hour before one of the Bruegels - not a particularly Brooknerian choice, but the behaviour was Brooknerian. Such routines, such forms, are not to be scorned. And it's form that's going to save us all, says Brookner in an early interview (the Haffenden, I believe).

In Brookner's anthology, Soundings, there's an essay on Rosa Bonheur that begins with a vignette of Brookner herself, at large in provincial Continental cities, indolent, homesick, seeking neglected minor artworks in unpopular museums. The essay dates from 1981, when Brookner was at the start of her late-life and very prolific second career as a novelist. The floodgates had opened, as she said: she wished she could write all the time: it released her from the despair of living. But in the meantime she had all those obscure provincial painters to honour: Jules Dupre, Felix Ziem, Leon Cogniet, Rosa Bonheur...

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