‘Who are the good people of the book?’ asks Nabokov in his dissection of Madame Bovary, a question you may well ask of Anita Brookner’s Altered States. Alan’s mother, perhaps, and more convincingly his business partner’s wife, Felicity. Brookner’s polished sentences soften the force of vengeance she brings to bear on her carefully hewn characters. After the autopsy comes the mourning that is this book’s subject.
I am pleased to read that Hermione Lee is currently working on a biography of Anita Brookner.
This is a passage from Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being. Though irresistible, I pull back from nostalgia but find it harder with each folded year. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about those childhood bases against which we judge and measure our future ideas of happiness.
If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light, and feeling, it is impossible that I should be here; of feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive.