0464 | ADMT VIII: The Soldier’s Art | Anthony Powell


Well, WW2 is well and truly raging now and a number of fairly well-known characters start to become its victims as Nick Jenkins continues to become further involved in the most mind-numbingly boring war administration. The novel itself though is not mind-numbingly boring. Instead, this volume is punctuated with enough loss to bring home the realities of war on the home front.

The most moving section involves the bombing of London in which several of the characters meet their doom. Nick is not involved, but hears of their demise second-hand. However, I say ‘moving’, but Nick, as ever, seems almost numb to emotion. I had to force myself to remember he was married and with child as there’s virtually no mention of his wife and none of any children. Considering this describes the height of the Second World War, it almost defies belief that a character would give scant consideration to intimate relations one might, at a moment’s notice, never see again.

Widmerpool plays quite a central role in this one as Nick finds himself

working in the same divisional headquarters. But Widmerpool is constantly scheming for promotion and as safe a war job as he can get by plotting for a position as close to the war cabinet as he can get. His plottings and rivalries with fellow officers thread right the way through this episode culminating in something of a comeuppance towards the end. The whole thing has something of the element of farce which, in light of the tragic nature of the war around them, ensure the reader has no sympathy at all with Widmerpool’s scheming.

At one point, I was reminded of my job in Saudi when Nick commented

I felt more than ever glad a week’s leave lay ahead of me, one of those curious escapes that in wartime punctuate army life, far more than a ‘holiday,” comparable rather with brief and magical entries into another incarnation.

I’ll be embarking on a “brief and magical” entry into another incarnation tomorrow as the wife and I set off for 12 days in Armenia and Georgia!

On the whole, this was a pretty good read. Certainly the cynical undertone in Powell’s descriptions of war administration (take the opening line for example and the reference to theatrical costume) make this an important volume in the novel and Widmerpool’s shenanigans cap the volume off nicely.


When, at the start of the whole business, I bought an army greatcoat, it was at one of those places in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury Avenue, where, as well as officers’ kit and outfits for sport, they hire or sell theatrical costume.


This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

PROGRESS soldersp
RATING No rating for individual volumes in this 12-volume series. I’ll rate the entire novel after volume 12.


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