Monday 25 September 2017

Undue Influence: Nothing would come of such manoeuvres

I was resigned to the laws of this rough world. I would take my chance, and with it the penalties, for there are always penalties. I had spent that morbid Sunday wondering if simple happiness were available to all and had come to the conclusion that it was not. One had to make a determined bid for it, and I did not quite know how this was to be done. [...] I had taken the only options I thought I had, and had considered myself secure against disappointment. The disagreeable element in all this was that I knew that nothing would come of such manoeuvres, invigorating though they were. I returned every time to the status quo ante [...] If my way of looking at the world was hazardous, it was, by this date, largely unalterable.
Anita Brookner, Undue Influence, ch. 5

Why was Brookner such a prolific writer? She was scarcely a 'born storyteller'. Rather I find the answer in passages such as the one above. There's a recursiveness in the argument, a basic irresolvability. And however many times Brookner returns, there is no loss of potency, there is no entropy. The power resides in what is withheld or in what cannot be expressed. What exactly is wrong with Claire Pitt, the narrator of Undue Influence? Brookner doesn't know, but remains fascinated. And what to do when the novel comes to an end, and nothing is concluded, and the mysteries are still compelling? Well, then you have to do it all over again.

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