Friday 19 February 2021

Incidents in the Rue Laugier reread: 'Too late'

Chapter 12 is rich with Proust, Paris and the return of Tyler, made more powerful by the length of his absence from the text. (Something similar will happen in Brookner's next novel, Altered States.)

The meeting with Tyler, though this is not referenced, is surely akin to the reunion at the end of Washington Square. When she parts from Tyler, Maud knows it will be 'for life, as it were'.

And so Incidents, such a strange novel, stutters towards its conclusion. Did Brookner conceive the frame narrative afterwards, or was it always intended? I think it might have been the former: this would explain the highly eccentric time scheme. The 'incidents' take place in 1971; Maffy, the daughter, is born in 1980 or thereabouts. Maffy then turns out to be the narrator of the frame narrative, which is written after the deaths of both Edward and Maud, the first of whom dies in his early fifties. The time of writing, therefore, of this narrative, published in 1995, must be well into the twenty-first century.

But it is all, of course, as the frame story reminds us, a 'fantasy', 'fictitious'. Brookner's 'postmodern' novel, like all such performances, stimulates more questions than it will ever answer. And to what end?

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