By: Neil Donahue
For Love of Anita Brookner
Call it a mid-life crisis but at fifty-two I’ve decided to embark on a journey that includes the chronological reading of every one of the 27 novels by the English novelist Anita Brookner. Brookner passed away in March of 2016 at the age of 84. Despite winning the Booker Prize for her 1985 novel, Hotel Du Lac, Brookner is relatively unheralded and rarely makes the lists of the great novelists of our day. I believe she should be on every list of great novelists and is in fact a literary genius. Thus, I cast off this journey.
Ordinary Moments Given Their Proper Due
Anita Brookner applied her genius to airing the internal dirty laundry of our psyche: those persistent and tedious conversations underscoring our lives’ activities, be it skipping the bus for a brisk autumn walk or heading straight home after the party in lieu of a nightcap with a potential romantic mark.
Neither salacious nor particularly revealing in any dramatic sense, these are the ordinary patterns of thought that do the extraordinary work of creating a sense of meaning to the little lives we lead. And, spoiler alert, in Brookner’s novels, it is tepid resignation and not tempestuous rationalization or emotional confrontation that emerges as the truest and most noble of art forms. You turn the page not to know who does what to whom but to simply see how it all gets packed up and put away. The result, at least for me, has been surprisingly comforting.
You turn the page not to know who does what to whom but to simply see how it all gets packed up and put away.
Simply put, the project is to read all of Brookner’s novels back-to-back with some detours along the way. My goal is complete immersion in her work for the period of at least the year or two it takes to read all her novels, and to share the insight and beauty of her prose as a tangible practice for any initiates that may arise.
A Monument of Quiet Appreciation
I will post periodically during each book with the odd quote or two and some succinct commentary. I am not particularly adept at literary deconstruction and will not attempt to provide too much in the way of commentary, though I welcome anyone who can or will. For me, I want nothing more than to share my passion and create some sort of monument of effort to my hero and if I recruit even one more Brookner fan, I’ve done my small part in shedding light on one of the world’s great artists.
So, beginning on her birthday of July 16th, I share this invitation post and begin Brookner’s first novel, aptly titled, The Debut (in the US version) and A Start in Life (in the UK version).
If you’re among Anita’s cult following or you’re interested in the thematic pursuits of emotional exploration of everyday moments, please join Luminary Lit in the sharing and celebrating of Anita Brookner’s work.