Anita Brookner, author of the Booker Prize winning novel Hotel du Lac, dies at the age of 87

Anita Brookner, the prize-winning British author and renowned art historian, passed away peacefully on 10th March 2016 according to an announcement in The Times.

Brookner wrote 24 novels in her lifetime and is best known for her novel Hotel du Lac which won the Booker Prize in 1984.

Born to Polish Jewish parents in London in 1928, Brookner studied at King’s College, London and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, before becoming the first woman to be named as Slade professor of art at Cambridge University in 1967. She then taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art until she retired in 1988. In 1990, she received an OBE.

She started her fiction writing late in life with her first novel, A Start in Life, published in 1981, at the age of 53. She went on to write a novel almost every year for the next three decades. Her last book, the novella At The Hairdresser’s, was published in 2011.

Her publisher Juliet Annan paid tribute to her, writing:

‘Anita Brookner’s works will last. She was an exceptional writer in so many ways: she was a superb art historian, and wrote several major works of art history on David, Watteau and Greuze.  She was an erudite critic, from the shortlist of the Prix Goncourt to the latest crime novels.  But she will be remembered best for her twenty-four extraordinary novels, and in particular for Hotel du Lac which won the Man Booker Prize in 1984.  Her novels are beautifully written – her sentence structure is pure pleasure. But I think what people miss is that her novels are some of the most shocking of the twentieth century, for underneath the veneer of novels plots about women failing to marry, failing to see the venal in those around them, failing to make successful lives, she wrote about the biggest  fears we have: loneliness and death.   I became her editor and publisher in 1998, and The Next Big Thing (2002) is her late great masterpiece and is on an even more shocking subject: not just fear of loneliness – but fear of loneliness at the moment of death.    

‘If all of this sounds gloomy, it was not: her novels are often very funny as her hapless heroes and heroines fail to read the clues around them.  And she was funny, incisive and self-deprecating in person, and the most lovable of authors: I adored her, and to be with her was to want to behave better and be worthy of her instinctive rightness on everything and depth of moral sense.  You sat up straighter.  You tried not to say anything silly.  There are few people, let alone novelists, as intelligent, as intellectually rigorous as she.  We will miss her.’  

Brookner also received tributes from fellow authors Jilly Cooper, Jonathan Coe, Joanne Harris, Linda Grant and Lady Antonia Fraser.

Linda Grant tweeted her tribute to Brookner: ‘Oh, I admired her so much. An underrated master of incisive fiction and laser prose Anita Brookner.’ Jonathan Coe also paid tribute on Twitter with the statement: ‘A great writer. Hotel du Lac one of the best Booker winners ever in my opinion.’


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