Standing at ease

Robert Taubman

  • Faces in My Time by Anthony Powell
    Heinemann, 230 pp, £8.50, March 1980, ISBN 0 434 59924 7

At the beginning of this volume Anthony Powell marries into the Pakenham family, which has some resemblance, he discloses, to the Tollands in his sequence of novels A Dance to the Music of Time. By the end, he has written the first of those novels, A Question of Upbringing. Intervening, the war years provide his main subject, and one sees how closely – the Welsh regiment in Northern Ireland, command of the Defence Platoon at Div HQ, transfer to Military Intelligence and liaison with Allied and Neutral military attachés at the War Office – Mr Powell’s own story has been anticipated by Jenkins in the novels. The war is thus ‘ground already traversed’, and Mr Powell himself suggests that the novels ‘throw more light on the experience than can be achieved in memoirs’. This will not dampen the curiosity of those who want the memoirs as footnotes to the real thing. In any case, it’s a useful conjunction to have, the life and the art version set side by side, both of them now recalled out of the past; and the voices of two narrators, so much alike but with different claims to authenticity.

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