Anita Brookner’s Visual World

Margaret D. Stetz, University of Delaware
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2010), 35-46

Anita Brookner’s narrative strategies as a fiction-writer grow directly out of her practices in her other profession as an art historian. Like her greater predecessor, Jane Austen—a moralist wrongly categorized as a miniaturist—Brookner both creates her own world and connects to a larger world in multiple ways. One of the chief linkages occurs through repeated evocations of the heritage of Western visual art. Her novels take place in a psychological landscape that opens limitlessly into an allegorical world through references, in particular, to European painting. Brookner thus ennobles and dignifies the tragic-comic sufferings of her characters as they re-enact the recognizable visual tropes found in images by Bellini, Dürer, Goya, and other masters. Unfortunately though, Brookner remains best known to the public through the continued circulation of the film version of Hotel du Lac, a 1986 BBC television adaptation that removes her work from the broader contexts of art history and moral allegory and confines it instead to the narrow realms of travelogue and social comedy.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]