Brian (Jeremy Cooper, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2023

A novel that is also work of criticism, BRIAN feels very English to me, kitchen-sinky even – loneliness and alienation enveloped in cold and damp; and whereas the French might have abstracted the material into some heroic philosophical struggle, here the attempt at connection and meaning are almost pointillist, every precise dot adding up to a larger picture; there’s something endearingly Barbara Pym about BRIAN. The story is simple: a middle-aged man who works as a clerk for Camden Council, alone and scared of connection, finds meaning and community in attending the BFI screenings at the South Bank, becomes a film buff, a member of a group, a specialist in Japanese cinema, and a person who goes from controlling every aspect of his life so as to minimise the strange and unknown to someone who dares offer someone else a gift. A beautifully written paean to film-buffery and cinephilia.

José Arroyo

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