{ Bi­og­ra­phy}

The Guardian - Review - - Out In Paperback -

by Hi­lary Spurl­ing, Pen­guin, £9.99

An­thony Pow­ell (19052000) has been called “the British Proust” for his 12-vol­ume mas­ter­piece A Dance to the Mu­sic of Time, but it’s a claim ac­com­pa­nied by caveats. Par­tic­u­larly in his later years, the lit­er­ary dar­ing of his en­ter­prise came to be ob­scured by the tweed­i­ness of his mi­lieu, that of an aris­to­cratic coun­try gen­tle­man ap­par­ently ir­rel­e­vant to younger gen­er­a­tions. This ex­cel­lent bi­og­ra­phy will hope­fully turn our at­ten­tion again to his work. Pow­ell’s strik­ing achieve­ment, ul­ti­mately, is to have es­chewed the tyranny of plot in favour of the ac­tual rhythms of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence: his friend and ad­mirer Eve­lyn Waugh rightly saluted the “per­me­at­ing and ine­bri­at­ing at­mos­phere of the hap­haz­ard” in his work. He was, in the fullest sense, a 20th-cen­tury writer, shaped by his era’s forces of his­tory and by its lit­er­ary move­ments.

Spurl­ing, a close friend of Pow­ell and his wife, Vi­o­let, writes with great af­fec­tion. She is frank, too, in record­ing the hos­til­ity he faced, in later years, from for­mer friends. Pow­ell emerges from this ex­em­plary and de­li­ciously read­able ac­count not only as a nov­el­ist of con­sid­er­able sig­nif­i­cance who al­tered the pa­ram­e­ters of the form, but also as some­one of great wit, im­pres­sive mod­esty and firm in­tegrity. He is, as Proust was be­fore him, the great lit­er­ary chron­i­cler of his cul­ture in his time; and has left us nov­els both richly mean­ing­ful and dan­ger­ously funny. Claire Mes­sud

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.