The Writer in Exile: Anita Brookner’s Cultural Identity
Abstract: This paper seeks to explore aspects of Anita Brookner’s autobiography and personality which have been recreated in the female protagonists of many of her well-known early novels. Born into a family of European Jews displaced by the Second World War, Brookner projects the collective memory and the life experience — the angst — of the émigré and the refugee. Exile is a legacy of history, a painful inheritance of the Jewish “diaspora.” In Brookner’s fiction, exile is a psychological state of being not restricted by notions of national identity politics. Brookner recreates the difficult patterns of personal survival and provides a unique perspective on cultural dislocation. An acclaimed art historian and academic, the psychological truth of Anita Brookner’s lived experience, of compromise and interrogation of the cultural rift between the European and the British sensibilities, endows her fiction with the attributes of the Künstlerroman. The argument of my paper will be based on ideas borrowed from Edward Said’s famous essay “Reflection on Exile” (2000). I shall examine Anita Brookner’s cultural identity within the tropes of critical discourse inextricably linked to the “community of refugees”: loss, nostalgia, memory (the twin faculties of remembering and forgetting), and trauma.
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Published in December 2015