Sunday, December 05, 2021

Anthony Powell, The Military Philosophers (1968)

It's quite difficult to summarize these books, innit?  It's easier to just list a series of events.  Well, as noted, this is the last War book, beginning in '42 and ending in '45.  Nick gets promoted to major, and he ends up working as a liaison with Belgian and Czech troops.  At one point we see him at a production of The Bartered Bride, although, no surprise, he doesn't offer any opinion as to the work's merit (this isn't the first time opera has been referenced in the series, but I don't think he's any super-big fan or anything; it's just a sort of bourgeois form of entertainment that you might sometimes go to as a matter of course).  Later, he does actually go abroad, to France, but, natch, no actual fighting.

Meanwhile, Widmerpool ends up promoted to colonel.  There's a lot about a young woman, Pamela Flitton, a driver (and a niece of Stringham) who breaks a lot of hearts and ends up engaged to Widermerpool himself, even though this is very clearly an extremely bad idea (although I know, from having begun the next book, that they do indeed go through with it, so that could be interesting).  And--this was a bit of a shock--Stringham and Templer both die in the War.  Or at least, everyone assumes as much; it isn't officially confirmed, so I suppose one or both of them could reappear, but I kind of don't think Powell is that kind of writer.  Since they were two of the first characters we met in A Question of Upbringing, I had a perhaps artificial sense of their importance and thought they'd be around for the long run.  Again, it's not like I was super in love with them, but they were there the whole time and them being suddenly gone is...well, a bit shocking, as I said.

So yeah, that's basically what you've got, though obviously I'm wildly skimming over the details.  There's one interesting, unusual incident that I might mention: Nick and various generals and another major, Prasad, from an unnamed Middle Eastern country, have commandeered an apartment building to stay in.  Naturally, one of the generals grabs the only room with an adjoining bathroom, and Prasad gets all agitated about how much he needs that room, and obviously Nick's response is, dude, that isn't happening, until he claims that he needs it for religious purposes (something having to do with praying, clearly), and he decides, well, that puts it in another light, and he agrees to ask the general in question who--on himself learning that it's a matter of religion--gives in.  That's just culturally interesting, that these people would be depicted as so accommodating of an unfamiliar faith.  

Anyway!  That's about that.  Three fourths done.  Onward.


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