« | Home | »

Hilary Mantel’s Phantoms

Tags: |

Colin Burrow on Bring Up the Bodies in the LRB, 7 June 2012:

The word ‘haunting’ is much abused, but is absolutely, almost literally, right for this book… At one time or another almost every character (except plain, prosaic Jane Seymour) sees something like a spectre. Thomas Cromwell’s dead children are present in the novel’s very first scene, in which their names are given to falcons who seem to carry their spirits. The supposed lovers of Anne Boleyn are said to pass through the royal palaces like spectres. Even Wyatt is at one point compared to a phantom, as his ‘well-dressed shade, silken, slides across the window, blocks the cold starlight. On your way, phantom.’ When Cromwell’s house is quiet ‘dead people walk about on the stairs.’

Mantel is of course past mistress of phantoms. The thing in the corner that isn’t quite there but nonetheless occupies the centre of your attention because it can’t really be there.

Hilary Mantel in the LRB, 4 November 2010:

Three or four nights after surgery – when, in the words of the staff, I have ‘mobilised’ – I come out of the bathroom and spot a circus strongman squatting on my bed. He sees me too; from beneath his shaggy brow he rolls a liquid eye. Brown-skinned, naked except for the tattered hide of some endangered species, he is bouncing on his heels and smoking furiously without taking the cigarette from his lips: puff, bounce, puff, bounce. What rubbish, I think, actually shouting at myself, but silently. This is a no-smoking hospital. It is impossible this man would be allowed in, to behave as he does. Therefore he’s not real, and if he’s not real I can take his space. As I get into bed beside him, the strongman vanishes. I pick up my diary and record him: was there, isn’t any more.

Comments on “Hilary Mantel’s Phantoms”

  1. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Hillary Mantel says something rather interesting about vanishing phantoms at 24:36 in this BBC interview.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • deano on Stoke and Copeland: Neoliberal economic policies were designed to benefit the very richest alone, at the expense of everybody else. This latest justification being put ar...
    • Rikkeh on Stoke and Copeland: Exactly. The elephant curve shows us that neoliberalism has, in economic terms, been fairly benign for the world's poorest 10%, been hugely benefi...
    • suetonius on Stoke and Copeland: A few thoughts. One, the left needs to go back to it's roots. "One Big Union." No more defense of Western privilege. We're all in this together. ...
    • wearytruth on Stoke and Copeland: "Corbyn’s stated mission in leading Labour is to offer a break with the past and create an economy for the many, not the few." That was MY stated...
    • Ouessante on Stoke and Copeland: Stoke: Cons+UKIP 49.1%, Lab 37.1%. Saved only by a split vote. Hardly cause for Lab rejoicing I think. They should be very worried.

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement