In Anthony Powell's Valley of Bones, Nick finds himself in the army, slightly older than his colleagues and unlike them, not from a lower middle class Welsh small town background; army life away from war proves a good mirror for understanding himself and concepts like will and action. It is also extraordinarily perceptive and funny. My earlier post draws attention to the mix of minute social perception and large scale history, and it is certainly true that the three war novels of the sequence - this is the first - are drawn on a larger, more worldly political canvas than earlier ones.
- It's no more normal to be a bank-manager or a bus-conductor, than to be Baudelaire or Genghis Khan
- (About the adultery of a sergeant's wife, and his subsequent suicide) Makes you glad you're married ... don't have to bother any more about women
- Nothing dates people more than the standards from which they have chosen to react
- (On a sudden death) As in musical chairs, the piano stops suddenly, someone is left without a seat, petrified for all time in their attitude of that particular moment. The balance-sheet is struck there and then, a matter of luck whether its calculations have much bearing, one way or the other, on the commerce conducted. Some die in an apparently suitable manner, others ... on the field of battle with a certain incongruity.
- I was impressed for the ten thousandth time by the fact that literature illustrates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already.