Chatto & Windus has signed a new biography by Hermione Lee of art historian and Booker-winning novelist Anita Brookner.
Clara Farmer, publishing director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Caroline Dawnay at United Agents. LuAnn Walther has acquired North American English-language rights for the Knopf list at Penguin Random House US.
The synopsis explains: “Anita Brookner (1928–2016) is a seductive subject for a literary biography. She was a writer like no other, of stylish brilliance, wisdom, passion, sadness and irony, and she was a magnetic, witty and complex woman, at once well-known and private, candid and secretive, loved by many and close to very few. Her personal style, more French than English, was impeccably self-concealing; her attitude to life was both romantic and grimly realistic.”
Lee, who has previously written on Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton and Penelope Fitzgerald, has been given the full co-operation of Brookner's estate for her new work. She interviewed and often reviewed Brookner in her lifetime, and will be in conversation with the family members, friends, colleagues, ex-students and literary peers who knew her and remember her vividly.
The publisher added: “Anita Brookner promises to reveal the full, fascinating story of a tantalising, brilliant, idiosyncratic and complex woman, and to cast light on and give renewed life to her extraordinary work, in all its stylishness, passion, wit and daring.”
Farmer said: “We take immense pride and pleasure in publishing Hermione Lee. The richness of Brookner’s life, which in recent years has been occluded by a reputation of quiet and isolation, more than warrants another look. Her life was multifaceted, distinctly European, and offers tantalising mysteries. As a portrait of a key cultural 20th-century figure, Anita Brookner is destined to be the next masterwork from one of the best biographers at work today.”