Synopses & Reviews
Written from a vantage point both high and deliberately narrow, the early novels of the late British master Anthony Powell nevertheless deal in the universal themes that would become a substantial part of his oeuvre: pride, greed, and the strange drivers of human behavior.
More explorations of relationships and vanity than plot-driven narratives, Powells early works reveal the stirrings of the unequaled style, ear for dialogue, and eye for irony that would reach their caustic peak in his epic, A Dance to the Music of Time.
In Afternoon Men, the earliest and perhaps most acid of Powells novels, we meet the museum clerk William Atwater, a young man stymied in both his professional and romantic endeavors. Immersed in Atwaters coterie of acquaintancesa similarly unsatisfied cast of rootless, cocktail-swilling London sophisticateswe learn of the conflict between his humdrum work life and louche social scene, of his unrequited love, and, during a trip to the country, of the absurd contrivances of proper manners.
A satire that verges on nihilism and a story touched with sexism and equal doses self-loathing and self-medication, AfternoonMen has a grim edge to it. But its dialogue sparks and its scenes grip, and for aficionados of Powell, this first installment in his literary canon will be a welcome window onto the mind of a great artist learning his craft.
"Decline and Fall is that all-too-rare phenomenon, a good nonsense novel. Its author has had the happy inspiration to take nothing seriously, and least of all himself. The result is a book which makes more sense than most." T. S. Matthews, The New Republic
"A savagely comic masterpiece." Times Literary Supplement
"A world of anarchic fantasy, floodlit with a bland, devastating brilliance.... Waugh's people were of two classes, both of whom he knew intimately: the giddy rich and adventurers of vast caddishness....The characters reeled their lunatic way, with sublime insouciance or sublime rascality, through a harlequinade ending in gruesome but hilarious calamity." Charles J. Rolo, Atlantic Monthly
Decline and Fall, Waugh's first novel, lays waste the "heathen idol" of British sportsmanship, the cultured perfection of Oxford, and the inviolable honor codes of the English gentleman.
Powells first novel (1931), a satire of London lads getting into romantic trouble, drinking too much and living up to their reputation as a lost generation”. Imagine Bright Lights, Big City set in London in 1930. Reviewers have compared it to Waugh and Firbank. The conversations are brilliant and disturbing, deftly rendered, revealing many of the young men as sexist, anti-Semitic, and lacking in talent. Names like Undershaft, Atwater, Pringle, Wauchop, and Brisket add to the humor. As Nicholas Birms writes, The characters
have aspirations, both idealistic and self-serving, as well as the mechanisms to cope, through irony and understatement, with the disappointment of these aspirations”.
About the Author
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), whom Time called "one of the century's great masters of English prose," wrote several widely acclaimed novels as well as volumes of biography, memoir, travel writing, and journalism. Three of his novels, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, and Brideshead Revisited, were selected by the Modern Library as among the 100 best novels of the twentieth century.
Table of Contents
Part I. Montage
Part II. Perihelion
Part III. Palindrome