I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Invitation to the Dance

Invitation to the Dance

Kevin Stevens
I had been turning over in my mind the possibility of writing a novel composed of a fairly large number of volumes, [when] at a fairly early stage I found myself in the Wallace Collection, standing in front of Nicolas Poussin’s picture. An almost hypnotic spell seems cast by this masterpiece on the beholder. I knew all at once that Poussin had expressed at least one important aspect of what the novel must be. Anthony Powell in 1980 The twelve volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time were first published by Heinemann between 1951 and 1975. There is nothing in English literature like A Dance to the Music of Time. Or in any literature, I imagine, though the extended fictions of Proust and Robert Musil offer the closest analogues to the scale and ambition of Anthony Powell’s masterwork. Conceived as an integrated narrative and published serially over twenty-five years, Dance’s dozen novels explore English upper class and bohemian life across five decades, from soon after the First World War to the early 1970s. This remarkable sequence gathers up readers and carries them in one great, compelling storytelling wave that, within its overarching theme of time and its vicissitudes, covers war, love, art, politics, family, class, money and death with dramatic appropriateness, emotional exactness and unerring naturalistic detail. It has unity of time and place on a grand scale, and its central characters move from youth to old age as if in real time, with innumerable new arrivals flowing in and out of the leisurely narrative weave like acquaintances encountered throughout a life. The action is consistently surprising, comic and tragic by turns, and the style is subtle, penetrating and capable of the keenest observation. The collection is thoroughly of a piece, yet each volume possesses its own organic theme and structure, and can be read individually. Like Ford’s Parade’s End or Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, Dance wears its historical and literary ambition lightly, allowing readers effortless immersion in a world that, though so like one we know must have existed, carries us uniquely beyond its milieu as only a great work of literature can. Powell’s life covered more ground than even his fiction. Born in Westminster in 1905, the only child of an army officer whose family line can be traced to a twelfth-century Welsh chieftain, he died in March 2000, seeing out the century he had chronicled so well. He was educated at Eton and Oxford…

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