Wednesday 8 November 2017

Fraud: the Tangle of Life

Since then Anna had maintained her ambiguous poise, although she knew that it was brittle.
Anita Brookner, Fraud, ch. 4

In her middle period - and Fraud sits more or less at the centre of the corpus - Brookner seems to revel in her unexpected second career. She delights in fiction, almost in what we might call storytelling. She writes about characters like Anna Durrant, who might have been invented by that born novelist Henry James. Anna's a lot like Fleda Vetch in The Spoils of Poynton - that deep little person for whom happiness is a pearl-diving plunge, that deep little person who really can only exist and survive in fiction, and Jamesian fiction at that. Henry James of course isn't content with the fairy tale, and at the end of the novel Fleda emerges into 'clearer cruder air'. Brookner too seeks to break into Anna Durrant's ambiguous poise, render it brittle. But as with James it's an affair of style. Style buoys up Anna and Fleda, creating out of almost nothing a complex web we never quite understand, and which their creators too never quite grasp. And that's why they keep on writing: it's why they must write; and it's a duty that compels them. Fleda Vetch advises her friend Mrs Gereth not to 'simplify' too much - for the tangle of life 'is much more intricate than you've ever, I think, felt it to be'.

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