Monday 26 March 2018

Family and Friends: The Finished Product

The finished product is attired in a cunning little violet wool dress with a peplum, shiny high-heeled shoes, and a great deal of Schiaparelli's Shocking dabbed behind her ears and on her wrists.
Anita Brookner, Family and Friends, ch. 7

By all accounts elegant in real life, if not dressy, Brookner in her writing always goes to town with her clusters of clothes-modifying adjectives, but here I want to point to the specificity of her references to scents and perfumes. Even Brookner's men get their smells. Think of George Bland and his Eau Sauvage. The precise significations of such aromas is beyond me, but might be worthy of study.

Brookner herself, we know, was always fragrant:
The fact that there was one woman there – called Anita Brookner – who you used to go up for private, individual tutorials with her and she was in the top of the building of number nineteen next door. And she was always feeding the pigeons, had an open window and feeding the pigeons, and I remember her I’d knock on the door and she said ‘Come in’ and her back was turned to me feeding the pigeons. And she said ‘You know one day Flavia I’m going to be a novelist.’ And of course she was. Hotel du Lac which I think is the second book but the one that first really made her name in 1984 and how many did she publish since then? Fifteen? But she did write beautifully I mean she was a very good art historian too. So in a sense I suppose she was a bit of a role model. She was very beautiful. Well she’s still alive actually, in her eighties. Very beautiful very elegant French, French dressed. And people didn’t wear scent – scent was very expensive in those days – but she always had the latest or the most exclusive scents from Paris. I mean you couldn’t go into Boots in those days and buy you know, Channel [sic] or Armani or whatever you just couldn’t and it was far too expensive but you could always tell where she was and I if I couldn’t find her I’d just walk round the Courtauld [sniffs] using my nose and I’d always find her, because she'd wear this beautiful scent.
Transcript of interview with Flavia Swann, Association of Art Historians, Oral Histories Project, 2010 (Link)

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