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Brookner on Brookner

As you may know, Anita Brookner is a doggedly private person. She rarely grants interviews and even less frequently talks about her works.

She considers herself an academic first and foremost, an art historian, an authority on eighteenth-century painting. She taught at and was eventually promoted to being a Reader at the Courtauld Institute, held the Slade professorship at Cambridge, and is a fellow at both King's College London and Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. She did not begin publishing novels until her early 50s. (She had already written book-length academic studies, including ones on Ingres, Watteau, and Greuze.) HOTEL DU LAC was written fairly early on in the spate of novels, while she was still in her mid-50s. (She has written twenty-four novels.)

That said, in 2009, just before the publication of her last novel to date, she did grant an interview to the "Telegraph." I think the interviewer does a great job of capturing Brookner--or as well as anyone could. She's an illusive, elusive figure.

But one thing before we get to the interview: I ask you to remember that authors are not authorities on their own works. Texts slip away from authors because of the slippery nature of words themselves, because of the nature of linguistic construction. Novels and such are not nodes of psychology in need of analysts. In the end, it tells us little that William Faulkner had an affair in Hollywood or that F. Scott Fitzgerald had to contend with a mad Zelda. It may make the authors more colorful but their texts glide by, elide, and even occlude any biographical intent. Harold Bloom famously contended that authors are always in a struggle with their writerly forebears. But in many ways, an author is always in a struggle with her or his own text. Which shall be known, me or it?

That all said and with a grain of salt in tow, you can follow this link here to the interview. It is as evasive as one of Brookner's novels.

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