Monday 23 October 2017

Stendhal Again and Again

If Anita Brookner's Collected Journalism were ever published it would run to several volumes. One discovers things all the time. I've been looking through the Guardian / Observer archives, and today I come across some fresh Stendhal material.

Was there ever a more Brooknerian figure? Writers, in writing of other writers, not invariably write about themselves, and this is surely the case with Brookner and Stendhal.

Her review in June 1994 of Jonathan Keates biography is a straightforward retread of familiar ground, including an outing for that favourite line of Brookner's, about the after-dinner cigar. (See here.)

But a piece from January 1991, about a translation of Lucien Leuwen, delivers the most authentic hits. We find here the Brooknerian ideal just as much as the Stendhalian. And note how Brookner undermines everything with her little line within brackets.
The idea that fulfilment can be achieved by courage, chivalry, a resolute indifference to past events, and what he called gaîeté de coeur is the reason why all should read him, for his singular and unique lesson is that heroism is easily available, and that one can, by feeling correctly, achieve the upper hand, even over disastrous situations. The lesson once learnt (but it takes a lifetime) will bring a freedom which no shock or reversal can palliate.


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