In one sense Naipaul could hardly be less “committed” (to use an old-fashioned term); in another his political interests, in the deeper meaning of the phrase, are intensely alive.
—Anthony Powell, The Strangers All Are Gone

The danger of attempting a tour de force is that the rest of your output may vanish in its long shadow. Anthony Powell has written half a dozen shortish novels, a four-volume memoir, a very good biography of John Aubrey, and hundreds of book reviews and essays, but he is chiefly known, and will no doubt continue to be known, for his twelve-volume roman fleuve, A Dance to the Music of Time. For better or worse, Powell will always suffer the consequences of having sought to follow in the footsteps of Marcel Proust.

Interestingly, some of Powell’s greatest admirers, most notably Philip Larkin, seem to have felt it for the...


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