29 October 2018

#160 Blackhead's Home

The stairs above the second floor led up into a rookery of lesser activities, some fairly obscure of definition. On these higher storeys dwelt the Civil branches and their subsidiaries, Finance, Internal Administration, Passive Air Defence, all diminishing in official prestige as the altitude steepened. Finally the explorer converged on attics under the eaves, where crusty hermits lunched frugally from paper bags, amongst crumb-powdered files and documents ineradicably tattooed with the circular brand of the teacup. At these heights, vestiges of hastily snatched meals endured throughout all seasons, eternal as the unmelted upland snows. Here, under the leads, like some unjustly confined prisoner in the Council of Ten, lived Blackhead. It was a part of the building rarely penetrated, for even Blackhead himself preferred on the whole to make forays on others, rather than that his own fastness should be invaded.

Anthony Powell; The Military Philosophers
Contributed by Karen Langley

15 September 2018

#159 Orlando

[Mrs. Conyers] "Have you read anything else interesting, Nicholas? I always expect people like you to tell me what to put down on my library list."
"I've been reading something called Orlando," said the General. "Virginia Woolf. Ever heard of it?"
[Nicholas Jenkins:] "I read it when it first came out."
"What do you think of it?"
"Rather hard to say in a word."
"You think so?"
He turned to Frederica.
"Ever read Orlando?"
"No", she said. "But I've heard of it."
"Bertha didn't like it", he said.
"Couldn't get on with it", said Mrs. Conyers, emphatically ...
"Odd stuff, Orlando", said the General, who was not easily shifted from his subject. "Starts about a young man in the fifteen-hundreds. Then, about eighteen-thirty, he turns into a woman. You say you've read it?"
"Did you like it? Yes or no?"
"Not greatly."
"You didn't?"
"The woman can write, you know."
"Yes, I can see that. I still didn't like it."

Anthony Powell; At Lady Molly's
Contributed by Peter Kislinger

29 July 2018

#158 Military History

With unexpectedly delicate movements of the hands, the Field-Marshal began to explain what had been happening. We were in an area ... immemorially campaigned over. In fact the map was no less than a great slice of history. As the eye travelled northward, it fell on Zutphen, where Sir Philip Sidney had stopped a bullet in that charge against the Albanian cavalry. One wondered why Albanians should be involved in this part of the world at such a time. Presumably they were some auxiliary unit of the Spanish Command, similar to those exotic corps of which one heard rumours in the current war ... The thought of Sidney, a sympathetic figure, distracted attention from the Field-Marshal's talk. One felt him essentially the kind of soldier Vigny had in mind when writing of the man who, like a monk, submitted himself to the military way of life, because he thought it right, rather than because it appealed to him.

Anthony Powell; The Military Philosophers
Contributed by Keith Marshall

23 June 2018

#157 Governing

"I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy power," said Widmerpool. "That is something the war has taught me. In this connexion, it has more than once occurred to me that I might like governing ..."
He brought his lips together; then parted them. This contortion formed a phrase, but, the words inaudible, its sense escaped me.
"Governing whom?"
Leaning forward and smiling, Widmerpool repeated the movement of his lips. This time, although he spoke only in a whisper, the two words were intelligible.
"Black men ..."

Anthony Powell; The Military Philosophers
Contributed by Keith Marshall & others

19 May 2018

#156 General Conyers

When I wrote earlier in these Memoirs of Alfred Turner – a general, a distant relation, an eccentric – I saw at once that General Turner (among other things keen on psychical research) could be marked down as model for General Conyers in my novel.  So far as General Conyers had a model (he is in any case composite in his role of courtier), that was a cousin on my mother's side, Brigadier-General RLA Pennington (grandson of the Peninsular veteran and in his regiment), a soldier of altogether different stamp from Major-General Sir Alfred Turner.  The latter never crossed my mind when projecting General Conyers, but the principle is thereby illustrated of the novelist's attempt to create a 'character' based on someone known, who will be of more universal application than the mere sketching (as in Memoirs) of a familiar figure.  To the novelist the characters in his novel are known as those in a dream are known; the texture too complicated to be explained.

Anthony Powell; Infants of the Spring