Waugh and Anthony Powell (More)

Waugh’s influence is prominently mentioned in a review in this week’s Die Tagespost, a German language paper sponsored by the Roman Catholic church. The review is by Urs Buhlmann and the book is Powell’s novel The Soldier’s Art which has been translated into German (Die Kunst des Soldaten). This is No. 8 in Powell’s 12 volume series Dance to the Music of Time. The review begins by describing Powell as: “Better than Balzac,” according to one critic; another thought that he could classify the author as a mere descriptor of the British upper class.  …  He is a worthy successor to Evelyn Waugh, mostly not yet known [in Germany]. The review is entitled “Kühl, humorvoll, durchdacht” (translated as “Cool, Humorous, Thoughtful”). In the article,  this is explained by describing Powell’s work as: “…a reading pleasure, like a bottle of good sparkling wine to quote Evelyn Waugh, ‘cool, humorous, thoughtful and well built'”.  Where this translated quotation originates is not explained. It doesn’t appear as such in the two Spectator reviews Waugh wrote of Powell’s novels. It may be Buhlmann’s interpretation of something Waugh wrote. Whether Waugh was writing about Powell’s work or wine is unclear from the translated text. The article concludes with another reference to Waugh:

The typical topics of recent British literature, as already encountered in Evelyn Waugh – the rise of the success-oriented middle class with simultaneous decline of the hitherto leading elites -are coolly noted by Anthony Powell, not challenged.

The translations are by Goggle with some edits.

Another reviewer, this one addressing the recent biography of Anthony Powell by Hilary Spurling, also describes Powell’s relationship to Waugh. This is by Martin McGinness in the Sydney Morning Herald. He begins by considering how well Dance to the Music of Time has worn:

With a title taken from Poussin’s masterpiece of the four seasons, Dance, has been described as “Proust Englished by P.G. Wodehouse” but perhaps Powell’s closely-observed study of 20th-century bohemacy has suffered from being too real: its texture a trifle tweedy; its colours slightly faded. He is not an escapist like Wodehouse; a moralist like Orwell, nor a satirist like Waugh. And yet his 3000 pages, 1 million words and nearly 500 characters are still a singular and extraordinary achievement – a very English life over 60 years through the eyes of Nicholas Jenkins. Auberon Waugh said on the publication of his father’s diaries, “[They] show that the world of Evelyn Waugh’s novels did in fact exist”. This is even truer of his friend and contemporary. Powell’s Dance is not just a roman-fleuve; it is also largely a roman-a-clef.

McGinness goes on to compare aspects of Powell’s characters and plot with real people and events. After adjudging Hilary Spurling’s official biography a bit inferior to the earlier unauthorized book by Michael Barber, McGinness concludes:

Anthony Powell, the novelist, deserves to be read and though, like the last century, it was not a merry one, his Dance can be enjoyed – its elegant ebb and flow, its cadences and coincidences; its galaxy of recurring characters; and its message that time takes its toll.

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