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Hilary Mantel, 4 April 1996

Behind the Scenes at the Museum 
by Kate Atkinson.
Black Swan, 382 pp., £6.99, January 1996, 0 552 99618 1
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... much interest to anyone as they were to the women of the London press.’ The Sunday Times quoted Anita Brookner recently: ‘I think literature is without gender.’ Think again. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about Salman Rushdie – and we know nothing of his manicure. Now Atkinson is back in Edinburgh, where she lives. She speaks of ...

Suicidal Piston Device

Susan Eilenberg: Being Lord Byron, 5 April 2007

by Benjamin Markovits.
Faber, 200 pp., £10.99, January 2007, 978 0 571 23332 8
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... emptiness has considerable relative appeal. There are moments when one might almost be in an early Anita Brookner novel, shuddering at the cruelty of the laughing world – were it not for the sensation that one might almost be in Mansfield Park or The Wings of the Dove instead. Strongest of all is the illusion that one is still reading one or more likely ...

Pour a stiff drink

Tessa Hadley: Elizabeth Jane Howard, 6 February 2014

All Change 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Mantle, 573 pp., £18.99, November 2013, 978 0 230 74307 6
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... banality itself is mysterious, accumulations of detail take flight into commentary and insight. Anita Brookner is more like Bowen than Munro. ‘One Sunday, when an iron cold and stillness had settled over London, when the false early spring was less than a distant memory …’ Readers vary too. And lots of readers love their books to sound ‘just ...


James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home, 1 January 2009

The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... replacement doesn’t mean you have to retire to a private nunnery, like some wilted daffodil in Anita Brookner declining the solace of an after-dinner mint. Late-life celibacy is no automatic character-improver or cleansing agent: Sukie had imagined before turning old that quirks – bad traits and mannerisms – would fall away, once the need to make ...

Soul Bellow

Craig Raine, 12 November 1987

More die of heartbreak 
by Saul Bellow.
Alison Press/Secker, 335 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 436 03962 1
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... say that someone now was flavoured with the essences belonging to, for example, Peter Ackroyd, Anita Brookner, William Boyd, Anthony Burgess and Peter Hall. This is typical, alas. First repetition: Kenneth has left Paris, even though his father has promised to introduce him to the ‘agent who had forced Tsvetaeva’s husband to work for the ...

How Shall I Know You?

Hilary Mantel, 19 October 2000

... do in life, do they? I stood debating this with myself, and saying come now, come now, what would Anita Brookner do? Then I saw something move, above me; just a faint stir of the air, against the prevailing fug. One eye was now malfunctioning badly, and there were jagged holes in the world to the left of my head, so I had to turn my whole body to be sure ...

Robespierre’s Chamber Pot

Julian Barnes: Loathed by Huysmans, 2 April 2020

Modern Art 
by J.K. Huysmans, translated by Brendan King.
Dedalus, 313 pp., £10.99, February 2019, 978 1 910213 99 5
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... laws very weak, which allowed Huysmans to express the full scale of his rage and contempt. As Anita Brookner put it, ‘his judgments on his contemporaries were not unlike the humours of an invalid, his view of the world as subjective as that of a patient in a hospital bed.’ His misanthropy gave him much less pleasure then than it does us ...


Barbara Everett: Coleridge the Modernist, 7 August 2003

Coleridge’s Notebooks: A Selection 
edited by Seamus Perry.
Oxford, 264 pp., £17.99, June 2002, 0 19 871201 4
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works I: Poems (Reading Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1608 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00483 8
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works II: Poems (Variorum Text) 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1528 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 00484 6
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The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. XVI: Poetical Works III: Plays 
edited by J.C.C. Mays.
Princeton, 1620 pp., £135, November 2001, 0 691 09883 2
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... freedom and autonomy. In her study of French Romantic painting, Romanticism and Its Discontents, Anita Brookner reminds us how vital to the period are principled acts of negation: ‘Romanticism is essentially about dissidence, about rejection, about protest, about breaking the old rules but only incidentally establishing new ones.’ There is no space ...


Gabriele Annan: Ivan Klíma, 13 December 2001

No Saints or Angels 
by Ivan Klíma, translated by Gerald Turner.
Granta, 267 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86207 448 8
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... and idiom. The central one is a lonely, depressive woman called Kristýna. She might be one of Anita Brookner’s heroines, except that she is too beautiful. Klíma writes extremely well about women; and if he is not quite as subtle as Brookner, that may be because he is so very keen to put across his message, that ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... the book. He thought it had probably been exploded. ‘Exploded?’ said the Queen. ‘But it was Anita Brookner.’ The young man, who seemed remarkably undeferential, said security may have thought it was a device. The Queen said: ‘Yes. That is exactly what it is. A book is a device to ignite the imagination.’ The footman said: ‘Yes, maam.’ It ...

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