Thursday 30 November 2017

Providence: Kitty Maule's Seminar

Some notes on the seminar scene in chapter 4 of Brookner's Providence:
  • Kitty's '[A] novel is not simply a confession, you know. It is about the author's choice of words' reminds me of Evelyn Waugh's line, 'I regard writing not as an investigation of character but as an exercise in language, and with this I am obsessed.' When the Paris Review asked Brookner about Kitty's comment, she replied, 'I am not conscious of having a style. I write quite easily, without thinking about the words much but rather about what they want to say. I do think that respect for form is absolutely necessary in any art form - painting, writing, anything. I try to write as lucidly as possible. You might say lucidity is a conscious preoccupation.'
  • The key quote from the Preface to the Third Edition of Constant's Adolphe, 'ce douloureux étonnement d'une âme trompée' is given in the Penguin translation as 'the pain and bewilderment of a soul deceived' and by Brookner's tutee as 'the painful astonishment of a deceived soul'. John Haffenden, interviewing Brookner, commented on this line, saying that he thought it was what Providence was about. He also remarked on the end of the chapter, where Kitty recalls a line of Adolphe but cannot remember what follows it. In fact what comes next is none other than 'the painful astonishment of a deceived soul'. 'How clever of you to pick that up,' said Brookner.
  • Kitty is notably indulgent towards her students. 'To be taught by Anita was to be loved by Anita': see Brookner Interview Discoveries #3.
  • We have a mention of Mme du Deffand, who later features in Altered States (see here).
  • Larter speaks of Existentialism as a Romantic phenomenon. Asked about this by John Haffenden, Brookner replied, 'I would now say that it is anti-Romantic: it gets rid of all the hopes and the beliefs that things are worth pursuing'. For more on this, see here.
  • Kitty sets a task for next time. Her students are to list key words in Adolphe, starting with imprudences, règles sévères, faiblesse and douleur profonde. That's Brooknerian homework for you.

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