Thursday 22 November 2018

A Private View: Chapter by Chapter: 1

  • Blank London windows, hazy indistinct light, a barrier of trees: Pelham Crescent by Robert Buhler. I have a great liking for the first UK paperback edition. This is a novel of private life, of retirement, of the end of a public life, of the claustrophobia of home, the ambiguities and ambivalences of home.
  • With reference to a previous post (see here), I find that the character who drops dead at Kempton Park is in this novel.
  • George Bland isn't Anita Brookner, and Brookner was at pains to point this out in her 1994 interview. 'Clearly I'm not a 65-year-old man who has worked in personnel.' But she was a year shy of that age when she wrote it, or when we can assume she wrote it. (The novel is set in the last months of 1992 - a later visit to the Royal Academy exhibition confirms this (see here for more on this detail) - and I take it that Brookner probably wrote it then too.) And something else of interest: when she wrote an intro to an edition of Madame Bovary, A Private View was the only one of her novels cited in her biographical note. George Bland - c'est moi?
  • The start of the novel is masterly, and as John Bayley once said, we could go on considering Bland's situation indefinitely. 'He felt a moment of fear, as if he were no longer safe. Darkness, sudden as always, pressed against the window; cars roared along the corniche. He was aware of an alien life, nothing to do with him, utterly indifferent to whether he stayed or left.'
  • And how much longer has he got? A 'few more years', he reckons - a few more years before he must rely on the ministrations of strangers. These are preoccupations that would grow and grow in Brookner's later novels - and perhaps too in her life. One reads with a chill.

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