Wednesday 22 February 2017

Everything that came after

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.
SM: It was your life.
AB: Yes.

Anita Brookner had a first career, and this is key to understanding her second. In obvious ways the first career gave her an appreciation of the fine arts that aided her as she crafted and embellished her fiction. That first career also afforded Brookner the security to regard her second as a kind of hobby: it was play; it was ludic. It made her, perhaps, careless; let her take risks. It didn't matter if she failed.

'I think if my novels are about anything positive, they're about not playing tricks,' Brookner told John Haffenden. Certainly it may seem a misreading to see such serious-minded works in games-playing terms, but as Nietzsche said, the deepest pathos is still aesthetic play.

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