21 August 2016

#139 Fate

Gwatkin shook my hand too. He smiled in an odd sort of way, as if he dimly perceived it was no good battling against Fate, which, seen in right perspective, almost always provides a certain beauty of design, sometimes even an occasional good laugh.

Anthony Powell; The Valley of Bones
Contributed by Keith Marshall

29 June 2016

#138 Government

'A great illusion is that government is carried on by an infallible, incorruptible machine,' Pennistone said. 'Officials — all officials, of all governments — are just as capable of behaving in an irregular manner as anyone else. In fact they have the additional advantage of being able to assuage their conscience, if they happen to own one, by assuring themselves it's all for the country's good.'

Anthony Powell, The Military Philosophers
Contributed by Peter Kislinger

03 May 2016

#137 Eccentrics

Simple-lifers, utopian socialists, spiritualists, occultists, theosophists, quietists, pacifists, futurists, cubists, zealots of all sorts in their approach to life and art ... were then [1914] thought of by the unenlightened as scarcely distinguishable from one another.

Anthony Powell; The Kindly Ones
Contributed by Pictures in Powell

31 March 2016

#136 Russian Character

Lebedev — the name always reminded one of the character in The Idiot who was good at explaining the Apocalypse, though otherwise unreliable — rarely spoke; nor did he more than usually attend more than very briefly — so our Mission working with the Russians reported — the occasional parties given by their Soviet opposite numbers, where drinking bouts attained classical proportions, it was alleged.

Anthony Powell; The Military Philosophers
Contributed by Peter Kislinger

27 February 2016

#135 Critical Appraisal of Powell

Powell is one of the most serious and technically adroit novelists since Dickens. His procedures are in fact unobtrusively modernistic, but are in the interests of an essentially conservative (with a small c) morality based not on puritanism but on freedom and on an exceedingly complex notion of, to put it necessarily crudely, decency. Jenkins is skeptical but – despite his coolness – obsessed, in his apparently casual way, with decency. He is almost paralysed by decency, as Powell shows us. Widmerpool is the foil to him: the ambitious go-getter, amoral, wanting to have his cake and eat it. Each book [in Dance] betters its predecessor but only because of its predecessor ... At the end we recognize that the old charges against Powell – he could not deal with the lower classes, he was a snob, he was limited, and so on – have all been dealt with by him ... Powell has very intelligently employed reader-reaction as feedback, and has succeeded in accomplishing almost all of the things he was supposed not to be able to do. This fundamental modesty has helped him to achieve one of the masterworks of his time ... [Dance] is humane, poetic, and moving: not a comic work, as is so often supposed, but a tragi-comic one of enormous sensibility, subtlety, and compassion.

Martin Seymour-Smith, Guide to Modern World Literature
Contributed by Larry Kart