Voyeur

Paul Delany

  • To Keep the Ball Rolling: The Memoirs of Anthony Powell. Vol. IV: The strangers all are gone by Anthony Powell
    Heinemann, 208 pp, £9.50, May 1982, ISBN 0 434 59941 7

The action of A Dance to the Music of Time comes to the reader by courtesy of Nick Jenkins, that non-participant observer whose presence never seems to make any impact on the endless round of social gatherings he attends. When Powell began to publish his memoirs, fans of Dance hoped that the mystery of what Jenkins was really like might be revealed; now that the memoirs are completed, it is clear that these hopes will never be satisfied. ‘Scratch an invisible narrator, get an invisible narrator’ – to borrow the old joke about actors. Sometimes Powell’s memoirs appear to be mere piffle (‘Once more the food was good, though not up to Air France’), sometimes acute, sometimes one suspects an elaborate joke is being played on the reader. Hardly ever, though, does the author present himself as a figure of substance: it is not Jenkins’s creator we meet, but Jenkins’s ghost.

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