Anthony Powell by Neil McEwan (auth.)

By Neil McEwan (auth.)

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One of Powell's techniques for flattening the high spirits of all party-going is his close attention to the pains and discomforts, embarrassments and boredom to which such pursuits are liable. He is especially good at charting the stages of Blore-Smith's drunkenness on his night out in Paris, from tipsiness to collapse, without denying the pleasures of drink but showing how thin and befuddled they can be. Blore-Smith in 'sheer lightness of heart', after dinner, fits in an extra calvados while Chipehase is out of the room.

Close attention is needed as before, and as in good traditional fiction - from Laurence Sterne, say, to Henry James- but 'difficulties' are admitted and discussed by the narrator, rather than offered, in the manner of some Modernist writing, for the reader to solve or wonder about alone. It is e1ear that Jenkins's account of his life will have design, but no plot of the kind Pip relates, for example, in Great Expectations. It is also e1ear that a major part of the design will belong to the narrator's commentary, a feature of older fiction largely exeluded from the prewar novels and here boldly reinstated and enlarged.

Lushington's girl-friend in England, who loves Da Costa, knows this but cannot quite believe it. She thinks hirn, rather than Lushington, Ortrud's lover when she hears at the end that they were killed together during the attack on the chief of police, a chance association which the Professor will also misinterpret. Almost all the circumstances of the novel are ironie in one way or another. Da Costa is shot just when he has decided to abandon the diplomatie service and go to Crete as an archaeologist.

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