BROOKNER, ANITA (1928– ), writer and art historian. Brookner was born in London, England, into a family of Polish origin. She was educated at the University of London and at the Courtauld Institute in London. In her professional life, her achievements have been in the areas of both art history and English literature. She was a visiting lecturer at the University of Reading from 1958 to 1964 and shortly thereafter became a lecturer in art history at the Courtauld Institute. From 1967 to 1968 she was Slade Professor at Cambridge University, the first woman to hold that position. She is considered an international authority on 18th- and 19th-century painting. Her academic works include The Genius of the Future: Studies in French Art Criticism (1971) and Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon (1972).
In the field of literature, Anita Brookner has written literary reviews for the Times Literary Supplement, Observer, London Review of Books, and the Times (London). However, she is best known for her novels. She wrote A Start in Life (1981; U.S. title The Debut), Providence (1982), Look at Me (1983), Hotel du Lac (1984) for which she was awarded the Booker Prize of 1984, Family and Friends (1985), and Fraud (1992). She continued to write prolifically, publishing 11 books in the period between 1995 and 2005, including Altered States (1995), Bay of Angels (2001), and Leaving Home (2005)
Brookner's literary style very much reflects her background in art. She writes in an elegantly formal, highly structured prose reminiscent of the staid, carefully composed character studies found in 18th- and 19th-century portraits of individuals. With the exception of Family and Friends her novels are, in fact, verbal portraits of a single main character.
Brookner's novels concern the relationships between men and women in modern society. She depicts men as the activists and catalysts in the world, while women, though competent and accomplished, are presented as meek, lonely objects waiting for men to confer love upon them to deliver them from their prudent, patient, long-suffering lives.
H. May (ed.), Contemporary Authors, 114, 77–78; S. Hall (ed.), Contemporary Literary Criticism, Yearbook 34, (1984), 136. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Alexander Malcolm, Understanding Anita Brookner (2001); G. Soule, Four British Women Writers … An Annotated … Bibliography (1998).
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