Anita Brookner Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anita Brookner, the only child of Newsom and Maude Schiska Brookner, attended James Allen’s Girls’ School, received a B.A. from King’s College, University of London, and completed a Ph.D. in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She began her teaching career as a visiting lecturer at the University of Reading, where she taught from 1959 to 1964. In 1964 she became a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, where from 1977 to 1987 she was a reader in art history with the rank of professor. She was Slade Professor at the University of Cambridge from 1967 to 1968, the first woman ever to hold the position. In 1984 Brookner won the Booker Prize for her novel Hotel du Lac, and four years later she gave up teaching to concentrate on her writing career. She was named a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.

Brookner’s writing initially grew out of her academic field of expertise, late eighteenth and early nineteenth century French painting. Her first book was Watteau, a brief introductory study of the French painter. She followed this book with a volume of six essays of comparative criticism, The Genius of the Future, Studies in French Art Criticism, in which she examined the personalities and accomplishments of Denis Diderot, Stendhal, Charles Baudelaire, Émile Zola, the Brothers Goncourt, and Joris-Karl Huysmans; this volume was a product of Brookner’s Slade lectures at Cambridge. She followed this work with Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth Century Phenomenon, in which she presented Jean-Baptiste Greuze as a painter who attempted to reestablish nostalgia as a part of the abstract intellectual milieu of the mid-eighteenth century art world. In Jacques-Louis David Brookner portrayed David as an artist whose life and work embodied and reflected much of the fundamental thought, belief, and behavior of the eighteenth century.

During a long summer vacation Brookner wrote her first novel, The Debut, which reflects her awareness of the impact of art on life and her involvement in the academic world. The main character, Ruth Weiss, is a professor of literature at a London university who, like Brookner, grew up reading English novels, especially those of Charles Dickens, in which patience and virtue were ultimately rewarded; because of the stifling life she lives under the eye of her strong-willed mother she is led to study Honoré de Balzac. Through a scholarship she escapes to Paris to read Balzac and to live her own life, but her adventure is cut short when she is called back to London to tend to her aging parents.

Brookner continued her examination of the thinking single woman in Providence, Look at Me, and Hotel du Lac. In the last, her fourth novel, Edith Hope is a successful writer...

(The entire section is 1163 words.)

Anita Brookner Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anita Brookner was born in London, England, on July 16, 1928, to Newsom and Maude Brookner. She was educated at James Allen’s Girls’ School and King’s College, University of London, and she received a Ph.D. in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 1953. From 1959 to 1964, she was visiting lecturer at the University of Reading, Berkshire. In 1967-1968, she was Slade Professor at Cambridge University, the first woman to hold this position. From 1964 to 1988 she taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she lectured on neoclassicism and the Romantic movement. She is a fellow of New Hall of Cambridge University. In 1983, she became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1990 she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1984, Hotel du Lac won the prestigious Booker Prize.

Brookner began her career as a novelist when she was more than fifty years old as an attempt, she hinted, to understand her own powerlessness after a grand passion went wrong. Since 1981, she has published novels almost at the rate of one per year.

Anita Brookner Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anita Brookner was born in London, England, on July 16, 1928; some references wrongly report the year as 1938. Her parents were Newson Brookner, a Polish immigrant and businessman, and Maude Schiska Brookner, who had been an opera singer before her marriage.

Brookner and her parents lived with her grandmother, part of an extended Polish Jewish family that included many aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a child she read many books by the great nineteenth century English novelist Charles Dickens. She was brought up according to Jewish traditions but because of her delicate health was never asked to learn Hebrew. Although Brookner is not religious and although she was born and reared in London, she thinks her upbringing may have caused her to feel like an outsider in English society. Critics think that many of the heroines of her novels reflect their author’s sense of estrangement.

She attended James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, a pleasant section of London south of the Thames River. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in French literature at King’s College of the University of London. She then studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, also in London, where she was awarded a doctorate. She had traveled to Paris, France, conducting research to write her dissertation, which she later revised for publication as Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon (1972).

Brookner had a distinguished career as an art historian before turning to fiction. She taught first from 1959 to 1964 as a visiting lecturer at the University of Reading in England and after 1964 at the Courtauld Institute. In 1967-1968, she was the first woman to hold the distinguished post of Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge University. She has published several highly acclaimed works on art history, mainly on French painting of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Brookner began her career as a novelist when she was about fifty years old....

(The entire section is 822 words.)

Anita Brookner Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anita Brookner has created a number of distinctive novels. Her central characters usually are intelligent and sensitive women who yearn for love. The mood of the novels is somewhat somber because these women are foiled by many things: their own timidity, the restraints of family, and the self-centered greed of other people. Some of her later novels focus on male characters as well and describe the workings of more than one family. Readers get to know these characters well because of Brookner’s deft analyses of their motives and attitudes, as well as her descriptions of the surfaces of their lives. If the stories are unhappy, Brookner’s style is not: It is witty and imaginative.

Although some reviewers criticize Brookner’s novels as being redundant, other critics emphasize that Brookner does not repeatedly create the same plots and characters but introduces new perceptions presented through people and settings familiar to her. They maintain that her evolving insights enrich her literary style with each novel she writes. While detractors dismiss Brookner’s fiction as lacking sufficient literary substance, many scholars and readers recognize its qualities that merit continued attention.

Anita Brookner Biography

(Novels for Students)
Anita Brookner Published by Gale Cengage

Novelist and art historian Anita Brookner was born on July 16, 1928, in London, the only child of Newson and Maude Brookner. Her father, who...

(The entire section is 460 words.)