- Biography & Memoir
In the first full-length biography of Anthony Powell, publisher, journalist, man-about-town, and author of the Dance to the Music of Time sequence, Michael Barber takes a close look at the man and the writer. He finds someone whose temperament was often at war with his upbringing. The son of an army officer, educated at Eton and Balliol, Powell chose as his closest friends people like Malcolm Muggeridge and the composer, Constant Lambert, who were not out of the top drawer or the one below it. And although happily married for over sixty years to Lady Violet Pakenham, the daughter of an Earl, he admitted that he had ‘always been attracted by girls who looked as if they’d slept under a bush for a week.’ Powell believed that creative writing was, like alchemy, a mysterious, indefinable process by which experience became art. Michael Barber focuses on the experience that provided Powell with his raw material. He pays particular attention to the ‘entre-deux-guerres’, that sharply divided cultural interlude when the artists and good-timers with whom Powell identified in the twenties were followed, in the thirties, by the politicians and the prigs. Amusing, candid, and highly entertaining, this is a delightfully readable account of one of the most humorous writers of the twentieth century.
‘[Barber] has done a remarkably good job … This study of Powell is very readable … I have read it twice with immense enjoyment. Barber deals with Powell’s own life story in an admirably straightforward and unsentimental manner … [He] grasps the essential point about Powell’s novels … He writes perceptibly about such friends as Constant Lambert, Adrian Dantry, George Orwell and Malcolm Muggeridge’ Hugh Massingberd, Spectator
'Barber is at his best describing bohemia and the literary world that Powell by choice inhabited – once again very far from the aristocratic one of the gossip-writers imagination' Antonia Fraser, Evening Standard