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Anita Brookner

  • 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.

  • I am 46, and have been for some time past.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in The Times ()
  • She was a handsome woman of forty-five and would remain so for many years.

  • You have no idea how promising the world begins to look once you have decided to have it all for yourself. And how much healthier your decisions are once they become entirely selfish.

  • Good women always think it is their fault when someone else is being offensive. Bad women never take the blame for anything.

  • In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market ... Hares have no time to read. They are too busy winning the game.

  • The lessons taught in great books are misleading. The commerce in life is rarely so simple and never so just.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in John Haffenden, ed., Novelists in Interview ()
  • Writing novels preserves you in a state of innocence — a lot passes you by — simply because your attention is otherwise diverted.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in John Haffenden, ed., Novelists in Interview ()
  • Time misspent in youth is sometimes all the freedom one ever has.

  • It will be a pity if women in the more conventional mould are to be phased out, for there will never be anyone to go home to.

  • The essence of romantic love is that wonderful beginning, after which sadness and impossibility may become the rule.

  • All good fortune is a gift of the gods, and ... you don't win the favors of the ancient gods by being good, but by being bold.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews ()
  • I think you always feel braver in another language.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in Olga Kenyon, Women Writers Talk ()
  • What is interesting about self-analysis is that it leads nowhere. It is an art form in itself.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in Olga Kenyon, Women Writers Talk ()
  • One loses the capacity to grieve as a child grieves, or to rage as a child rages: hotly, despairingly, with tears of passion. One grows up, one becomes civilized, one learns one's manners, and consequently can no longer manage these two functions — sorrow and anger — adequately.

  • Fiction is the great repository of the moral sense. The wicked get punished.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in Sybil Steinberg, ed., Writing for Your Life ()
  • ... I was brought up among the sort of self-important woman who had a husband as one has an alibi ...

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in Sybil Steinberg, ed., Writing for Your Life ()
  • I need noise and interruptions and irritation: irritation and discomfort are a great starter. The loneliness of doing it any other way would kill me.

    • Anita Brookner
  • Satire is dependent on strong beliefs, and on strong beliefs wounded.

    • Anita Brookner,
    • in The Spectator ()

Anita Brookner, English writer, art historian

(1928)