Sunday 18 June 2017

Hotel du Lac, Chapter 7

Interviewer: Despite their subtlety and variations, all your books so far have been basically about love. Do you think you will go on writing about love?
Brookner: What else is there? All the rest is mere literature!
Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in the tradition of English literature?
Brookner: I don't know anything like that. I'm a middle-class, middle-brow novelist. And that's it. It amuses me. 

'You write about love,' says Mr Neville. 'And you will never write anything different, I suspect, until you begin to take a harder look at yourself.' Anita Brookner, in interview, purported to be on Edith's side, even to the extent of pretending she herself was Edith's kind of novelist. Yet in none of Edith Hope's novels would we find the sort of exchange that takes up much of chapter 7 of Hotel du Lac. The conversation is a deconstruction of the terms that underpin Edith's writing, and more widely of the romantic life her writing advocates. It is by far the best scene in the novel so far, not least for its challenging metafictional qualities.

Mr Neville, depicted as the Duke of Wellington in the previous chapter, is here commended for his 'eighteenth-century face'. There's something rigorously antique about the whole encounter. We might recall Brookner's comment in her interview with Olga Kenyon in Women Writers Talk (1989):
Probably this is the first time since the Regency that men and women can converse on equal terms.
So what does Brookner believe? Is she on Mr Neville's side, or on Edith's? I don't think we'll ever decide, and this is a central tension - though she also told Olga Kenyon she shared 'practically all' of Edith's characteristics, that Hotel du Lac was a very personal story, and that she 'meant it. Every word'.

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