Anthony Powell: Casanova's Chinese Restaurant



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And by implication for Powell the most important uality in a writer Observe but don t judge earn something new every day but never believe you have found the ultimate answer to all Life s uestions especially where Women and emotions are involved Do you remember that night at Casanova s Chinese Restaurant years ago We talked about seducers and Don Juan and that sort of thing The painter Barnby was there I believe you were with us too weren t you Jenkins view spoiler Do you remember when he talked of suicide in Casanova s hide spoiler Marriage fidelity infidelity relationships friendships death and all things having to do with The Confabulist life as our hero grows older and deals with new information and family ties Part 5 is excellent and whets my enthusiasm for the rest There is probably something wrong about thinking you ve realized your ideal in art or anywhere else It is a conception that should remain in the mind Anthony Powell Casanova s Chinese RestaurantPowell s fifth book opens with a flashback to theate 20s and a discussion about Der Illusionist love marriage and suicide The book processes through the challenging marriages of Hugh Moreland composer friend and Maclintick music critic friend and their two difficult marriages St John Clarke dies Erridge see Orwell is back from Spain Af far as plots goike most of Powell s books there really isn t much happening A couple dinner A couple parties Memories and flashes of insight into friends and their motives Art music writing is discussed at Enticing (PI Men to the Rescue length People die If I was pitching it as a movie it would be a difficult pitch but it is beautiful thoughtful and gentle The entire novel reminds me ofistening to the 3rd movement of Mahler s 5th symphony Powell s prose just glides As you are spinning though the chapters and scenes Powell throws a couple prose flowers of truth at you and you spin on Faces are recognized spin and blur out Themes emerge crystalize and disappear just as uick Yet at the very end you also find a dark pull to the gravity of this novel What you initially took for a carousel is actually a ghost railway and all at once the reader is slowly climbing sheer gradients sweeping with frenzied speed into inky depths turning blind corners from which black gibbering bogeys Spring Comes to Sanctuary (Welcome to Sanctuary, leapt to attack rushing headlong towards iron studded doors threatened by imminent collision fingered by spectral hands moving atast with dreadful ever increasing momentum towards a shape that Ask the Past lay across theine The Spanish Civil War and the Abdication Crisis music and fine arts bohemians and socialites all is interwoven into a complicated and admirable ornament Casanova s Chinese Restaurant is as exotic and spicy as Chinese cuisineIn Casanova s Chinese Restaurant Anthony Powell occupies himself by comparing the ways and styles of married Riding Class (Saddle Club, life of the different personagesin the end you discover that all this ill humour is nothing to do with yourself at all In fact your wife is hardly aware that she isiving in the same house with you It was something that somebody said about her to someone who gossiped to somebody she knew when that somebody was having her hair done Neither Silver Stirrups (Saddle Club, less nor than that All the same it is you her husband who has to bear the brunt of those ill chosen remarks by somebody about somethingWeiterally pass through a gallery of odd human types and strange behavioural patterns Hullo Little Bo Peep he said What have you done with your shepherdess s crook You will never find your sheep at this rate Don t Different Class look so cross and pout at meike that or I shall ruffle up all those dainty Short Stories by Roald Dahl little frills of yours and then where will you be A human being seems to be an eccentric creature when observed from afar They say the onlooker sees most of the game though Writer Nick Jenkins and his artist friend Barnby spend an evening at the Mortimer pub and Casanova s Chinese Restaurant Nick is introduced to a group of musicians and becomes close friends with composer Hugh Moreland based on Powell s friend Constant Lambert This book revolves around the musicians and their marriages Nick also marries but still plays the role of the observer and does not reveal details of his own marriage Hiseftist brother in Goldilocks the Three Bears law goes. Rs is a uniue evocation ofife in twentieth century EnglandThe novels follow Nicholas Jenkins Kenneth Widmerpool and oth.

To Spain during the Spanish Civil War The Abdication Crisis also is in everyone s thoughts and fits in with the book s emphasis on marriageSet mostly in 1936 Casanova s Chinese Restaurant is the fifth book in a twelve book series and cannot be read as a stand alone novel I enjoyed the social satire the new characters and getting reacuainted with some favorites that pop up in every book The detachment of the narrator really comes out in this volume of A Dance to the Music of Time Early on in a reported conversation there is reference to Nick s wife being in a nursing home and eventually it turns out she has had a miscarriage For all the concern he has you would think she had ost a pencil or something eually unimportant Another character and his wife have a child who ives for only a few hours Again it creates barely a rippleIt s brilliantly done but curiously bloodless The British stiff upper Socialist Realism lip at its best I suppose And of course the period is theate 1930s when it didn t do to get emotional about such things 5 CASANOVA S CHINESE RESTAURANT This fifth period is a bit different So far all the volumes were consecutive in time sometimes with a few years gap between one and the next While at the beginning of Casanova s Chinese Restaurant we jump back in time a few years and the Narrator introduces a different set of dancers After the initial flashback however the story continues and we find ourselves in the second half of 1936 when the Civil War in Spain has begun and where I encounter the best sentence I have read so far on that war I th It is doubtful whether an existing marriage can ever be described in the first person and convey a sense of reality To think at all objectively about one s own marriage is impossible Well I read the trilogy Spring in 2012Then I read the first book of Summer in February of 2015Now over a year I Look Up To... Michelle Obama later I ve read the fifth of Powell s 12 novelsAnd I m aiming to read the rest of them before the year is out or if you preferTakes place first chapter 1933 re Even the worst marriage is better than no marriage at all I can only reiterate some of the praise I have previouslyavished on this series it s pure pleasure The writing is some of the best I have ever read In Casanova s Chinese Restaurant Vol 5 we ve reached the mid 1930s the backdrop includes the Abdication crisis and the Spanish Civil War These seismic events and the storm clouds gathering over Europe are of only tangential concern to our narrator Nick Jenkins and his companions marriage and relationships are at the heart of Casanova s Chinese RestaurantBefore we get into the issue of marriage Anthony Powell takes us back to the Doctor Extraño late 1920s from a vantage somewhere after World War 1 It s an unsettling introduction but an important one as the reader is introduced to a new group of Nick s friends and acuaintances including composer Hugh Moreland who it transpires is probably his best friendWidmerpool sadly makes only a cameo appearance and Templar doesn t appear at all however Stringham makes a dramatic return at a party for Moreland given by Stringham s mother Mrs Foxe in the novel s most memorable scene Casanova s Chinese Restaurant abounds with adult themes marriage depression and alcoholism and it all feels a far cry from the school days that started the A Dance To The Music of Time books That said there is still much subtle humour and some wonderful new plot twists As I state at the outset this series is a delight Iook forward to continuing the series with The Kindly Ones Vol 645 Maturity starts setting in and perhaps symbolically historical events now come forcefully to the fore we are in the days of the Spanish Civil War which however still manifests as almost academic discussions of a war between different ideologies which is actually being played out in what still feels ike a distant and And even when one of their own gets involved it is still mostly an extravagance which after all is to be expected of such a character Yes there is political debate but it plays out in the drawing rooms of the good families and ife still goes on amid a whirlwind of social activitiesAs usual Powell manages to intertwine many themes in a short. Ers as they negotiate the intellectual cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World”.

Anthony Powell is not the first writer to compare marriage to a state of war He is nevertheless in a class of his own as he goes about pleading his case Book five of his Dance seuence is centered around the study of several couples in the years eading to the World War Two As he did in the previous novels Powell starts with a reminiscence a memory trigger for Nick Jenkins to take a Feminism is for Everybody look back at the defining events of his younger pre war years In the present case we have a double exposure a place and a song The place is the bombed out shell of a bar where he used to meet with his friend Moreland a new character introduced now who is a composer and a conductor and who expands the artistic scope of the series from paintings anditerature to music The song is a haunting popular tune from the 1930 s called Kashmiri Love Song a reference that can only be appreciated at its true value in retrospect Deterring Democracy looking back from the future at the desolateandscape Comet in Moominland (The Moomins, left behind by the passing of Love Pale hands Ioved beside the ShalimarWhere are you now Who Hunters Heart lies beneath your spell and A direct hit had excised even the ground floor so that the basement was revealed as a sunken garden or site of arheological excavationong abandoned where great sprays of willow herb and ragwort flowered through the cracked paving stones only a few broken milk bottles and a Menneskefluene (K2 laceless boot recalling contemporaryife In the midst of this sombre grotto five or six steps had withstood the explosion and formed a projecting island of masonry on the summit of which rose the door Walls on both sides were shrunk away but along its Nazi Gold lintel in niggling copybook handwriting could still be distinguished the word Ladies Chercheza femme should be the alternate title of the book After such an ominous debut I was not surprised that the whole fifth novel has a darker bleaker tonality than the party atmosphere and the almost burlesue mishaps in courting described in the visits to Lady Molly s salon Like its narrator Nick Jenkins the Dance enters into a mature deliberate and pragmatical phase discarding some of its youthfull enthusiasm for a gain in sobriety and depthA minor disappointment for me is the step back taken by Nick Jenkins after what is probably the biggest decision so far in his Mr Majeika and the School Inspector life getting married to Isobel Tolland I notice now Nick is back to his old role of passive observer of the events going on around him hardly even participating in the conversations with his friends His eye has become keener and his pen sharper but his personality is turning in my opinion and introverted Readers who had hopes of finding out about his marriedife will also be disappointed but maybe not surprised by his coyness and reluctance to spill out the goods even as he seems to be an avid consumer of other people s domestic tragi comedies Nick does make a good argument for his discretion but I still feel the author could have been open about his own marriage A future marriage or a past one may be investigated and explained in terms of writing by one of its parties but it is doubtful whether an existing marriage can ever be described directly in the first person and convey a sense of reality Even those writers who suggest some of the substance of married Selected Poems life best stylise heavilyosing the subtlety of the relationship at the price of a few accurately recorded but isolated aspects To think at all objectively about one s own marriage is impossible while a balanced view of other people s marriage is almost eually hard to achieve with so much information available so ittle to be believed Objectivity is not of course everything in writing but even after one has cast objectivity aside the difficulties of presenting marriage are inordinate Its forms are at once so varied yet so constant providing a kaleidoscope the colours of which are always changing always the same The moods of a ove affair the contradictions of friendship the jealousy of business partners the fellow feeling of opposed commanders in total war these are all in their way to be charted Marriage partaking of such and a thousand dual antagonisms and participations finally defies definition Keeping an open mind is for Nick. A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12 novel seuence which chronicles the ives of over three hundred characte.

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Anthony Dymoke Powell CH CBE was an English novelist best known for his twelve volume work A Dance to the Music of Time published between 1951 and 1975Powell's major work has remained in print continuously and has been the subject of TV and radio dramatisations In 2008 The Times newspaper named Powell among their list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945