Sunday 10 September 2017

Brookner Interview Discoveries #2: Great Expectations

The second of my interview discoveries, 'Great Expectations', is from the Observer on 27 March 1983, marking the publication of Brookner's Look at Me. The interview was conducted by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who would continue an interest in Brookner's works. Here she is on Brookner's 1998 novel Falling Slowly:
She is one of a handful of living writers who can turn a sentence so graceful that to read it is a lascivious pleasure, and she can string those sentences together to make paragraphs - whole chapters even - that unfurl surely and musically until they climax, or fall away into silence with a superbly exact authority to which it is delicious to submit. There is a constant delightful tension between the austerity of her message and the voluptuousness of her medium.
Brookner interviews have ritualistic tendencies, and Hughes-Hallett's certainly covers the usual ground: 'I regard myself as being completely invisible'; how the young Anita learnt false lessons from the classic books she read in her solitary childhood:
I grew up thinking that patience would be rewarded and virtue would triumph. It has been demonstrated to me that this is not true. It was a terrible realisation.
and her reasons for starting a second career as a novelist:
I thought if I could write about it I might be able to impose some structure on my experience. It gave me a feeling of being in control.
But of greatest interest are some unfamiliar biographical details. For many years, we learn, Brookner allowed her life to be determined by someone else's needs. 'A man. He became very ill. He has since died.' There was also, Hughes-Hallett tells us, another lost love in Brookner's past, 'on which she is not to be drawn, but she divulges clues':
Perhaps I was naive in expecting that these matters would be less complicated than they prove to be. As an art historian I am accustomed to reading signs, but sometimes I forgot to do so in real life. [...] People who are going to be good at reading the signs can do it at the age of 18 months. The others never learn.
We see her in her 'attic' at the Courtauld, on which the world 'doesn't impinge'. And we see her still hopeful:
I have great expectations. One waits to be sprung.

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