Anita Brookner

English novelist and art historian (1928–2016)

Anita Brookner (16 July 1928 – 10 March 2016) was an English novelist and art historian. She was educated at James Allen's Girls' School. She received a BA in History from King's College London in 1949 and a doctorate in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1953. In 1967, she became the first woman to hold the Slade Professorship of Fine Art at Cambridge University. She was promoted to Reader at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1977, where she worked until her retirement in 1988. Brookner was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1990. She was a Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge. Brookner published her first novel, A Start In Life, in 1981 at the age of 53, then published a novel each year for more than twenty years. Her fourth novel, Hotel du Lac (1984), won the Booker Prize for Fiction.



A Start in Life (1981)

  • It is best to marry for purely selfish reasons.

Look At Me (1983)

  • I saw the business of writing for what it truly was and is to me. It is your penance for not being lucky. It is an attempt to reach others and to make them love you. It is your instinctive protest, when you find you have no voice at the world's tribunals, and that no one will speak for you. I would give my entire output of words, past, present, and to come, in exchange for easier access to the world, for permission to state "I hurt" or "I hate" or "I want." Or, indeed, "Look at me." And I do not go back on this. For once a thing is known it can never be unknown. It can only be forgotten. And writing is the enemy of forgetfulness, of thoughtlessness. For the writer there is no oblivion. Only endless memory.

A Friend From England (1987)

  • "It was, I saw, a flat to get out of rather than one to stay in. It was a machine for eating and sleeping in, a suitable dwelling place for a working woman, whose main interest is in her work. I disliked this version of myself, which seemed to negate my other activities, reduced them to after-hours amusements, whereas I had always thought them pretty central. These mute, white walls had been silent witnesses to many encounters; nevertheless, they withheld comment, and their very withholding struck me as unfriendly. Unheimlich was the word which came to mind when I stood on the threshold of my bedroom."
  • "Women have come a long way, of course: we can all be left alone at night now. But sometimes it seems a high price to pay. We can also open the door cheerfully to strangers at any hour, deal with obscene telephone calls and mend fuses."
  • "The house - a substantial but essentially modest suburban villa - was furnished with voluptuous grandeur in approximations of various styles, predominantly those of several Louis, with late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century additions. Heavy coloured glass ashtrays of monstrous size and weight rested in inlaid marquetry tables of vaguely Pompadour associations. At dinner we drank champagne from ruby Bohemian glasses: the meat was carved at a Boulle-type sideboard. ‘Regency’ wallpaper of dark green and lighter green stripes was partially covered by gilt-framed landscapes of no style whatsoever.’"

A Closed Eye (1991)

  • And yet she had never felt so bereft, as if her presence in other lives were entirely illusory, as if she herself were a kind of facsimile, pleasant but inauthentic. Before she got too old she must wrest some part of her life for herself, or she would fade, vanish, before anyone noticed her disappearance

Making Things Better (2002)

  • In the street the rain was little more than a fine mist which softened the outlines of the houses and even lent a touch of poetry to a neighbourhood unlikely to evoke tender emotions. He raised his eyes to a roofline bristling with television aerials, lowered them again to windows still blank before the evening lights were lit.
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