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Books Do Furnish a Room (1971)

por Anthony Powell

Otros autores: Ver la sección otros autores.

Series: A Dance to the Music of Time (10)

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3901150,669 (3.81)1 / 47
The tenth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. Discover the extraordinary life of Anthony Powell - captured by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling in Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time - available now in hardback and ebook from Hamish Hamilton.… (más)
Añadido recientemente porjncc, Sovay, linepainter, therebelprince, Meinkat, pitjrw, Ashley_Hoss_820, eiamjw, Milesc
Bibliotecas de Figuras NotablesBarbara Pym
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"Après la guerre,
There'll be a good time everywhere."


The 10th novel in Powell's Music of Time cycle takes us to the years after WWII. Nick Jenkins is now in his 40s, with a second(?) child on the way, and London is a world greatly changed from his youth. The wonderfully titled Books Do Furnish a Room takes two unexpectedly connected subjects as its centrepieces: the short-lived left-wing magazine Fission, to which Jenkins hitches his wagon alongside a plethora of supporting characters from pre-War novels, and the antagonistic marriage of Kenneth Widmerpool (now an MP) and Pamela Flitton. We knew there would be sparks and savagery when these two married, but the truth is even more delectable. Widmerpool (whom the delightful Rosie Manasch likens to Lewis Carroll's Frog Footman) has matured into the great villain of the series, but Pam sure gives him a run for her money. When she arrives for a funeral early in the novel, pale as ever in her black dress and red lipstick, Jenkins remarks that she seems an appropriate attendant on Death. (The best revelation is that Pam's repeated final insult to her male lovers that they are terrible in a bed is in fact a feint; she is the frigid one, and ol' Kenneth gave up after just a couple of attempts. Marriage... is complicated.)

The two plots are linked by the almost-overpowering presence of a new character, X. Trapnel, a proto-beatnik writer whose ambitions outweigh his achievements. (I'm not sure which of his titles I prefer best, Camel Ride to the Tomb - a literal scene in his Egyptian novel but also a metaphor for life - or Bin Ends!) "A novelist is like a fortune teller", says the bearded, perpetually sunglass-wearing Trapnel, "who can impart certain information but not necessarily what the reader wants to hear". He feels both a loving parody of a particular kind of writer but also an acknowledgement of the burden those destined to create great art must often carry.

Now that Nick and his crew are older than myself, I was prepared to struggle with the sixtysomething Powell's inevitable reflection on time, and the pains of memory. So I was surprised to discover that Books is perhaps the volume least interested in the act of memory, at least since the very first. This is a very much a novel about the art of making art. Its specific nature, especially given that many of the parodies of post-War literary life are all but lost to me, will give some readers pause. But I found it rather invigorating. Powell had certainly not lost any of his touch (Hilary Spurling, in her recent biography, notes that he was undergoing renewed inspiration, especially as he was beginning to fear his life might end before he finished the cycle!).

By now, I have made my peace with Powell's unorthodox decision to sideline Jenkins, our narrator, almost completely. It is still difficult to appreciate his wife Isobel, barely a sketch outline, or to know if he has truly had any friends since the day he left highschool in the first volume. (Powell always insisted he would have written this series even if Proust had not existed, making out that the influence didn't concern him, but I still believe his creation of a twelve-volume series without a "self" at the centre if a deliberate inversion of Proust's more centripetal work.) Yet I appreciate now that Jenkins is a kind of narrative voice personified. He is able to be present at every major moment - think of the twin deaths of the Lovells in the previous volume, or the twin confrontation scenes involving Widmerpool and Pamela here - without anyone raising an eyebrow. While the narrative could function without Jenkins, it is his connection to events, as a kind of living recorder, the annalist par excellence, that keeps him relevant. If these novels are ultimately an attempt to depict Time on the page, Jenkins is the clock hand itself, slowly ticking ever closer to midnight.

I wanted to share this quote from Evelyn Waugh, a lifelong friend of Powell's and an admirer of the novels - although he did not live to see the series end:

"Less original novelists tenaciously follow their protagonists. In the Music of Time we watch through the glass of a tank; one after another various specimens swim towards us; we see them clearly, then with a barely perceptible flick of fin or tail, they are off into the murk... Their presence has no particular significance. It is recorded as part of the permeating and inebriating atmosphere of the haphazard which is the essence of Mr Powell's art."

I'll be truthful; I'm a little nervous about approaching the end of this series. For two reasons: first, I'm aware that - after covering 30 years in 10 volumes, Powell is now going to cover another 20 years in just 2; I'm hopeful the series does not just become (as Philip Larkin cruelly put it) "social accountancy". More to the point, though, I'm nervous about revelation. When I completed Proust's In Search of Lost Time, the climax had me unsettled and in awe for days. I was a wreck. If Powell does not equal that, I'll be eternally dissatisfied. If he does equal that, I will need to prepare myself for some weeping.

Ah, well. The future will have its way with us, whether we like it or not. ( )
  therebelprince | Jun 24, 2021 |
This is the tenth volume of Powell's autobiographical epic, "A Dance to the Music of Time", and sees his fictional avatar Nick Jenkins return once more to civilian life after his service in the Second World War, as chronicled in [The Valley of Bones], [The Soldier’s Art] and [The Military Philosophers]. However, before resuming his former place in London's literary world, he returns to academia, staying in his old Oxford college while researching the life of Robert Burton, and in particular his classic renaissance volume, [The Anatomy of Melancholy]. There is a certain poignancy about this choice of subject for Nick Jenkins: while [A Dance to the Music of Time] has frequently been praised for its humour and piquant observations of life, beneath the jolly carapace the predominant theme is one of cyclical melancholia.

His return to a post-war Oxford offers an opportunity for another encounter with Sillery, one of the principal influences during Jenkins’s time as an undergraduate. Still steeped in his intricate webs of political intrigue and relentless snobbery, underpinned by his particularly delicious form of personal malice, Sillery has been ennobled by the new, post-war Labour administration, and seems agog for any snippets of gossip or speculation about life in London, although his energies are principally directed to editing his journals for publication.

Jenkins’s spell in Oxford is cut short by news of the sudden death of his brother in law, the socialist peer Lord Warminster (known to friends and family as Erridge). Erridge’s funeral is one of Powell’s set piece masterpieces, with the Tolland family demonstrating all of their own respective foibles while also having to contend with the unexpected appearance of Kenneth Widmerpool (now an ambitious Labour MP), and his wife, along with J G Quiggin and Gypsy Jones, among others, who had lately been involved with Erridge and, in particular, his plans to fund the launch of a new, left-leaning politico-literary magazine called ‘Fission’

Returned to civilian life and back from his brief hiatus in Oxford, Jenkins now finds himself "doing the books" for ‘Fission’ while also struggling to complete his exegesis of Burton, which will eventually be published under the title 'Borage and Hellebore'. Working for Fission brings Jenkins back into regular contact with J G Quiggin who has now relinquished his own aspirations as an author and taken to publishing. The magazine is edited by Lindsey Bagshaw, known to all his acquaintances as 'Books Do Furnish a Room' Bagshaw, or simply 'Books'. Bagshaw is a veteran journalist and lifelong student of the numerous strains of socialism.

Through Bagshaw, Jenkins also makes the acquaintance X Trapnel, a highly accomplished yet dangerously volatile writer who strides around the icy capital in an old RAF greatcoat while brandishing a swordstick.

Jenkins was surprised to find that Kenneth Widmerpool, recently appointed as Principal Private Secretary to a member of the Cabinet, was involved with the magazine as one of its financial backers and a regular columnist. In this latter role he churns out wordy pieces espousing the merits of increased cultural and trade links with the Soviet bloc countries. After an inauspicious first encounter with her, Trapnel becomes utterly enchanted by Pamela, Widmerpool's unconventional wife. Pamela has hitherto been a fairly ephemeral character but takes a more prominent role in this volume, leaving her husband to set up home with Trapnel in the dim hinterland of Kilburn. Needless to say, life with Pamela is far from tranquil, which drags Trapnel down, and compromises his health (he has never been physically robust) and his writing. The portrayal of Trapnel is based upon the equally melancholic life of Julian Maclaren-Ross, who promised so much but died regrettably young without ever fulfilling his potential.

As Jenkins becomes more deeply immersed in Burton's work he sees ever more characteristics of different forms of melancholia among those people with whom he works, and Trapnel in particular. Trapnel does display a certain style, but is ill-equipped for the vicissitudes of post-war London, and the Dickensian winter that shows no sign or thawing. Often very funny this novel is also very closely observed and offers pellucid insight into the difficulties endured by the professional writer. ( )
  Eyejaybee | May 6, 2018 |
Book 10 music of time ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
This book, volume 10, finds Jenkins at University doing research on Anatomy of Melancholy. He meets with Sillery and Short and learns that Quiggins and Cragg are starting a publishing company. There is a funeral for Effridge. This book spends a great deal of time on Pamela Flitton Widmerpool who has simply atrocious manners. X or Trapnel has a big part too. Trapnel is a man who drinks and does "pills". He borrows money and doesn't seem to make any. ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 10, 2015 |
This is the tenth volume of Powell's autobiographical epic, "A Dance to the Music of Time", and his fictional avatar Nick Jenkins returns once more to London's literary world after securing his release from military service. It is now the late 1940s and Jenkins is "doing the books" for the new politico-literary magazine "Fission" while also struggling to complete his own latest work, 'Borage and Hellebore', an exegesis of Robert Burton's classic Renaissance volume, 'The Anatomy of Melancholy'.

Working for Fission brings Jenkins back into regular contact with J G Quiggin who has now relinquished his own aspirations as an author and taken to publishing. The magazine is edited by Lindsey Bagshaw, known to all his acquaintances as 'Books Do Furnish a Room' Bagshaw, or simply 'Books'. He is a veteran journalist and lifelong student of the numerous strains of socialism. Jenkins also makes the acquaintance X Trapnel, a highly accomplished yet dangerously volatile writer who strides around the icy capital in an old RAF greatcoat while brandishing a swordstick.

Jenkins is surprised to find that Kenneth Widmerpool, now a Labour MP and recently appointed as Principal Private Secretary to a member of the Cabinet, is involved with the magazine as one of its financial backers and a regular columnist. In this latter role he churns out wordy pieces espousing the merits of increased cultural and trade links with the Soviet bloc countries.

After an inauspicious first encounter Trapnel becomes utterly enchanted by Pamela Widmerpool's wife. Pamela has hitherto been a fairly ephemeral character but takes a more prominent role in this volume, leaving her husband to set up home with Trapnel in the dim hinterland of Kilburn. Needless to say, life with Pamela is far from tranquil, which drags Trapnel down, and compromises his health (he has never been physically robust) and his writing. The portrayal of Trapnel is based upon the equally melancholic life of Julian Maclaren-Ross, who promised so much but died regrettably young without ever fulfilling his potential.

As Jenkins becomes more deeply immersed in Burton's work he sees ever more characteristics of different forms of melancholia among those people with whom he works, and Trapnel in particular. Trapnel does display a certain style, but is ill-equipped for the vicissitudes of post-ar London, and the Dickensian winter that shows no sign or thawing.

Often very funny this novel is also very closely observed and offers pellucid insight into the difficulties endured by the professional writer.
( )
  Eyejaybee | Sep 24, 2015 |
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The tenth novel in Anthony Powell's brilliant twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. Discover the extraordinary life of Anthony Powell - captured by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling in Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time - available now in hardback and ebook from Hamish Hamilton.

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