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The BBC's Chris Jones
"Many consider him one of the funniest and most profound writers of his time"
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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 03:40 GMT 04:40 UK
Novelist Anthony Powell dies
Anthony Powell
Anthony Powell: best known for A Dance to the Music of Time
The novelist Anthony Powell has died at the age of 94 at his home in Somerset.

He was best known for A Dance to the Music of Time - a 12-volume work chronicling the lives of a group of acquaintances across 50 years.

Anthony Dymoke Powell was born in 1905 into an impeccably establishment family and it was the social mores of the upper-middle class which were reflected in his books.

He was educated at Eton and then at Balliol College, Oxford, where he met Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

Profound and witty

Mr Powell's first novel, Afternoon Men, was well received in 1931, but it wasn't until the first volume of A Dance to the Music of Time was published 20 years later, that he began to build a major reputation for profound but witty writing.

The dozen novels, 25 years in the making, chart half a century of change in the Bohemian and academic fringes of well-heeled England as the narrator, Nick Jenkins, observes, characters dancing to their own tune in a search for love, power and fame.

Jenkins' life follows similar lines to that of Anthony Powell - educated at Eton and Oxford, later becoming a soldier and writer - and the author acknowledged a strong link with his character.

Anthony Powell also found time to be a prolific literary critic and book reviewer for, among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement, Punch and the Spectator.

'Towering figure'

Although he refused a knighthood, Anthony Powell's contribution to English literature was formally recognised in 1988 when he joined an exclusive group of living writers to be made a Companion of Honour.

Fellow writer Sir Vidia Naipaul described him as a "towering figure of English literature" and a man of enormous sensitivity and insight.

But admiration for Mr Powell's work was not universal. In 1990, after 30 years as the Daily Telegraph's chief literary reviewer, he resigned when another of its reviewers, Auberon Waugh - whose father, Evelyn, had been a close friend - characterised The Music of Time as "an upmarket soap opera".

Critical acclaim

However to many other critics, Anthony Powell's perception of human character and ear for dialogue made him one of the funniest and most profound writers of his time.

He had lived for many years at his Georgian home in Frome, Somerset with a view of the Mendip hills which it is said he found so distracting he would write in an upstairs bedroom where only a yew tree could be seen from the window.

But Mr Powell's health deteriorated after a fall in 1995.

He had been married since 1934 to Lady Violet Pakenham and had two sons, Tristram and John.

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