As I progress through Anthony Powell’s Dance To The Music of Time, arriving at Books Do Furnish A Room marks a crucial stage of the journey. First, the war is in the past, with its heavy load of external events and inevitable tragedies – though all the war novels are also intimate and funny; but perhaps more importantly, the pace slows. We have roughly one book each decade after the war, compared with three, and a good part of a fourth, covering only six years or so. And finally, the main protagonist Nick and his peers are showing signs of settling down, readjusting after the war and accepting that they are older and occasionally wiser now they are in their forties or more. The last three books are just as wise and perceptive as the earlier ones, but there is maturity, judgement, experience and tolerance which belongs to the characters and not just to the author.
For me, of course, Books Do Furnish A Room is particularly poignant, named as it is after this blog. And as I read it, I found it a veritable feast of insight, laughter and understanding. The pattern of the dance is not yet clear, but more and more of the earlier movements are making sense, while more new ones crowd in thick and fast, here simplifying or resolving, here confusing or alarming, and here laying the ground for future exploration and resolution. And finally, this novel is an absolute treasure trove of quotations I felt I just had to give you – so I have split this post into two!
· Returning to the university at forty, one immediately recaptured all the crushing melancholy of the undergraduate condition.
· ... that law of nature which rules that the whole confraternity of politicians prefers to operate within the closed circle of its own initiates, rather than waste time with outsiders.
· [Jeavons on marriage] “I bet they suited each other a treat in their own way. Married couples usually do. ... People get divorced just because they don’t know they suit each other.”
· Camel Ride To The Tomb [a tour operator’s cry in
· The General, speaking one felt with authority, always insisted that, if you bring off adequate preservation of your personal myth, nothing much else in life matters. It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them.
· Accidents will happen even with the best regulated secret police.
· ... he belonged to a generation which continued to use that excellent masculine invocation of surname, before an irresponsible bandying of first name smothered all subtleties of relationship.