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Brooke-Rose, Christine

Entry updated 2 January 2023. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1923-2012) Swiss-born UK author and academic, in the UK from 1936 (serving during World War Two as an Intelligence Officer at Bletchley Park) until 1968; thereafter lecturer and then professor of American literature at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes) from 1969 until her retirement in 1988. She was married 1948-1975 to Jerzy Peterkiewicz. Brooke-Rose was widely known for critical works like A Grammar of Metaphor (1958) and A Rhetoric of the Unreal (1981), which formally assimilates the narrative strategies of sf and fantasy into those of metafiction (see Fabulation) in terms compatible with Tzvetan Todorov's theory of the fantastic. As a novelist, she was perhaps best known for early works outside the field like The Dear Deceit (1958), but increasingly produced texts whose displacements are more than Linguistic.

The Middlemen: A Satire (1961) is a fantasticated Near-Future assault on the worlds of public relations. Out (1964), an sf novel, is set after World War Three in a Post-Holocaust Afro-Eurasia where the colour barrier has been reversed, ostensibly for medical reasons, as only the "Colourless" seem to be fatally afflicted by a form of radiation poisoning. Such (1966) reanimates the dead astronomer Lazarus, who tells of his experiences during death, interrogating the nature of language as he does so. Out and Such were assembled with two non-genre novels, Between (1968) and Thru (1975), as The Christine Brooke-Rose Omnibus: Four Novels (omni 1986). Some fantasies, including the title story, were assembled in Go When You See the Green Man Walking (coll 1969).

Amalgamemnon (1984), the first of the loose Intercom Quartet sequence, addresses the future through words which cannot be believed, as they come from Cassandra, who also speaks as a woman (see Women in SF). Xorandor (1986) and its direct sequel Verbivore (1990), which make up a series designed ostensibly for older children, feature a silicon-based sentient rock, with a Computer-like mentality, awakened – and eventually overloaded – by the huge amount of information-noise (see Information Theory) generated by humans; in the second volume Xorandor's children – chips off the old block – shut down human Communications systems to keep sane. Textermination (1991) is a discourse on textuality, in which a large number of characters from famous novels come together in a campaign to transcend their "texts" and become "real". The unconnected Next (1998) comes close to Oulipo in its twenty-six protagonists, each of whose names begins with another letter of the alphabet, and whose murders comprise a kind of spell. This book, and the Computer Quartet, are rare examples of sf nouveaux romans – Brooke-Rose acknowledged Alain Robbe-Grillet's influence on her work – and remotely but cogently challenge the genre to talk back. Subscript (1999) – which she stated wrongly would be her last novel – is a narrative resumé of the course of Evolution from four and a half billion years ago up to a few thousand years before the Invention of Agriculture, conveyed through a series of point-of-view narratives of creatures relevant to the story, from monozygotic cells to human beings (see Prehistoric SF); Stephen Baxter's Evolution (2002) utilizes a similar technique to dramatize the sweep of life. What was in fact her last work of fiction, Life, End Of (2006), is nonfantastic. Though Brooke-Rose was perhaps more honoured than read in her later years, her work as a whole continues to stimulate and challenge anyone interested in the literary experiments of the late twentieth century. [JC]

see also: SF Megatext; Women SF Writers.

Christine Frances Evelyn Brooke-Rose

born Geneva, Switzerland: 16 January 1923

died near Avignon, France: 21 March 2012

works (selected)


Intercom Quartet

  • Amalgamemnon (Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1984) [Intercom Quartet: hb/]
  • Xorandor (Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1986) [Intercom Quartet: hb/]
  • Verbivore (Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1990) [Intercom Quartet: hb/Stephen Raw]
  • Textermination (Manchester, England: Carcanet, 1991) [Intercom Quartet: hb/Stephen Raw]

individual titles

nonfiction (selected)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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