Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time

Perry Anderson at the LRB:

Still, signs of considerable inner turbulence beneath the unruffled surface Powell presented to the world were there. He suffered from nearly permanent insomnia (‘In my early days I never slept a wink’), late on installing a camp bed by his desk so as not to keep his wife awake too. Prey not only to bouts of paralysing accidie, ‘the feeling that nothing’s worth doing’, but to spells of black depression – after an unsuccessful sortie to Hollywood in 1937, and in still more acute form, on returning to civilian life again after the war, when ‘every morning he wished he were dead’ – in his memoirs he implied a rather different explanation for having nothing to say when asked about his character, observing that ‘not everyone can stand the strain of gazing down too long into the personal crater, with its scene of Hieronymus Bosch activities taking place in the depths.’ Spurling, tacitly treating his depressions as discrete episodes, without much bearing on what he may have been like at some deeper level, does not recall this graphic image. Reluctance to venture much psychological surmise after Powell landed in London is visible in other ways. Reporting his claim never to have raised his voice again after leaving Eton, she later shows he was not so imperturbable: ‘rage and frustration’ at the tedium and inanity of life in the army ‘drove him to the kind of explosion he had witnessed as a child from his father’; he ‘lost control’ after Graham Greene’s obstruction of his book on Aubrey; he was hopelessly drunk with ‘unguarded anger, bitterness and shock’ on dismissal as literary editor at Punch; he severed his long-standing ties with the Daily Telegraph in ‘grief and rage’ at infantile barbs from the junior Waugh.

more here.