Friday 21 July 2017

Hallucinatory Reality

...but when he looked up from his soup, which he had been drinking rather greedily, and smiled at her, as he had smiled at her when he was a young boy, her heart smote her and she made a pretext of tiredness after the journey in order to weep a few tears in the privacy of their spare room. She spent a sleepless night watching a square of moonlight reflected in the tall mirror hanging on the dark blue patterned wall to the left of her bed and imagining that she was a girl in Vienna once again, sleeping in a similar bedroom, with a similar polished wood floor, and the same smell of beeswax fustiness that now came back to her with hallucinatory reality.
A Family Romance, ch. 3

There's something of an hallucinatory quality to A Family Romance as a whole. It has to do with the density of the prose and the expansiveness of the chapters. It has also to do with events such as those above not having been experienced by the narrating consciousness but instead imagined and presented with great affecting vividness. It is as if the story were being seen through some kind of filter, giving a sense of altered or heightened reality.

On another point, A Family Romance sets up and explores a familiar Brookner binary: the contrast between England and Europe. It is Toni Ferber who is so overwhelmed in the passage above, which takes place in Brussels. It is Toni Ferber who, earlier in the novel, pities her English daughter for her 'tepid existence, for never having known the hothouse love she had known as a girl in Vienna' (ch. 2).

The rue de la Loi, Brussels

For more on Brooknerian Brussels and some extreme tourism, see a previous post, Incidents in the Rue de la Loi.

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