Anita Brookner

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Anita Brookner : biography

16 July 1928 –

Anita Brookner CBE (born 16 July 1928) is an English language novelist and art historian who was born in Herne Hill, a suburb of London.


In 1967 she became the first woman to hold the Slade professorship at Cambridge University. She was promoted to Reader at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1977, where she worked until her retirement in 1988.

Brookner published her first novel, A Start In Life in 1981, at the age of 53. Since then she has published a novel approximately every year.

Brookner has not married; and took care of her parents as they aged.

In 1990 she was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). She is a Fellow of King’s College London and of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge.

Early life and education

Brookner was the only child of Newson Bruckner, a Polish immigrant to Britain, and Maude Schiska, a singer whose father had emigrated from Poland and founded a tobacco factory. Maude changed the family’s surname to Brookner because of anti-German sentiment in Britain. Anita Brookner had a lonely childhood, although her grandmother and uncle lived with the family, and her parents, secular Jews, opened their house to Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution during the 1930s and World War II.

Brookner was educated at the private James Allen’s Girls’ School. In 1949 she received a BA in History from King’s College London, and in 1953 a doctorate in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art.


Brookner is highly regarded as a stylist. Her novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love. Many of Brookner’s characters are the children of European immigrants to Britain; a number appear to be of Jewish descent. Brookner’s fourth book, Hotel du Lac (1984) was awarded the Booker Prize.