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The Military Philosophers

(A Dance to the Music of Time #9)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  619 ratings  ·  87 reviews
A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England.

The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”
256 pages
Published 1983 (first published 1968)
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

“The Military Philosophers” is the third and final part of the Autumn sequence in the Dance to the Music of Time. It also covers the second world war up to the time of final victory. As usual, I looked into the first pages for a powerful, allegoric image to set the mood and to act as a catalyst for the flow of memories. I’m not sure I hit the right spot or if I’m simply lucky, because I have two images for the price of one admission:

First, there is a reiteration of the feelings of alienation and
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
"Engrave no battle on his cheek,
With war I've naught to do,
I'm none of those that took Maestrick,
Nor Yarmouth Leaguer knew.

-- 'Vulcan, contrive me such a cup', John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester


This is the last book in the Fall/WWII trilogy (3rd Movement) of A Dance to the Music of Time. It was at once the saddest of the series so far and also the most Proustian, with several direct quotations from Remembrance of Things Past and also several geographies in common with that other monster of 20th
Vit Babenco
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The battles thunder far away and the protagonist finds himself in the General Staff, wading through the swamp of military bureaucracy, fighting the war wrapped in red tape…
There could be no doubt, so I was finally forced to decide, that the longer one dealt with them, the more one developed the habit of treating generals like members of the opposite sex; specifically, like ladies no longer young, who therefore deserve extra courtesy and attention; indeed, whose every whim must be given thought.
Earlier this evening, notgettingenough and I were arguing about Harry Potter. Not, despite having posted a review that has reduced several Potter fans to sputtering incoherence, was perversely taking me to task for my own rather more moderate effort. For about the hundredth time (I sometimes wonder whether we talk about anything else on Goodreads), I said that I'd quite liked the early books, but found the later volumes, and their implacable marketing, almost a direct insult to my intelligence. ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
At one stage of the service there had been a disturbance at the back of the church and someone afterwards said she had been sick in the font. Whoever had remarked that had found nothing surprising in unsatisfactory behavior from her. Someone else had commented: ‘That child’s a fiend.’

or, if you prefer,

Takes place: early spring 1942, through August 1945.
Nick Jenkins is in, even past, his mid-30s.
Book published: 1968. Anthony Powell was 62 years old.

Significant series characters (view spoil
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Military Philosophers (1968) is the ninth of Anthony Powell's twelve-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time.

Immediately preceded by The Valley of Bones (1964) and The Soldier's Art (1966), The Military Philosophers (1968) concludes the three books which cover the World War 2 years. These three books are right up there with Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh - there is, as you probably realise, no higher accolade.

In this volume, narrator Nick is now working for Allied Liaison, as Penniston
Diane Barnes
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
With this volume, WWII is over. Nick and his friends and family, (the ones still alive) can carry on. Six years of war, and the country is tired. I can feel the exhaustion as well, and am ready for the final 3 installments of this excellent series.
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This wonderful work continues to delight. As is inevitable in war, there are more casualties among Nick's friends. But there are still hilarious moments as he comes up against bureaucracy in full cry. Blackhead is a notorious pedant whose minutes "have the abstract quality of pure extension". One splendid example of "three and a half pages on the theory and practice of soap issues for military personnel, with especial reference to the Polish Women's Corps" was hilariously inscribed by Nick's bos ...more
Connie G
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The ninth volume of the series, The Military Philosophers, is set during 1942-45. Nick Jenkins is working as a military liaison to a Polish Allied contingent stationed in London. Nick's job is mainly administrative. There are humorous moments as he deals with Mr Blackhead, one of the worst paper pushers imaginable, who generates mounds of red tape.

The dreadful Kenneth Widmerpool appears again, moving up the military ladder. He gets involved with Pamela Flitton, a beautiful but angry woman. It's
Katie Lumsden
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel, though it's possibly not my favourite in the series. Such a great read regardless.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001-books
I can't speak highly enough of Powell's ninth instalment of his Dance to the Music of Time. Jenkins (now Major) sees out the war in liaison with Allies, be they Poles or Czechs or Belgians, even venturing out to France with a party of them to check on the progress towards Berlin. Widmerpool finds power and love, but not necessarily in the same place and past ghosts reappear in the forms of old loves and cuckolded husbands. The humour is first-rate (Pennistone's acerbic comment on an over-detaile ...more
This is the ninth of twelve-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time.

First published in 1968, it covers the latter part of Nicholas Jenkins' service in World War II. It depicts, with ironic detachment, a little-chronicled byway of the war effort, Allied Liaison.

4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1)
4* A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2)
4* The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3)
4* At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4)
4* C
Renee M
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What strikes me about the three books in this section of Dance to the Music of Time, is how understated they are. And how powerful that understatement can be in deft hands. We know we are at war and yet most of the conversations are so darned pedestrian. The frustrations, red tape, personality conflicts, day to day choices of living and interacting. Then, wham, something happens that puts it all into the stark relief of impending death. And even that is understated... Which somehow makes it so r ...more
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
World War II is now well under way in this ninth volume of Powell’s twelve volume series, “The Dance to the Music of Time,” and the narrator, Nick Jenkins, continues to be in the army in an administrative support role in Britain. He is often involved with interacting with military representatives of countries occupied by the Axis powers, especially the Poles, and Powell provides interesting insights into the roles played by these groups as they sought to influence Allied war aims. Nick’s duties ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Not my favourite in the series by any means, this volume charts the end of the war and Nick’s subsequent demobbing.

The writing carries on in its normal vein with the usual insight into a whole host of characters excepting the narrator himself. Widmerpool features heavily of course and a certain romantic attachment gets more focus than usual. There are however lots of passages dealing with the all to unfascinating intricacies of Allied administration. These bored the pants off me.

To liven things
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Of the twelve volumes, this was the toughest one for me, as we've lost some characters during WW2 and England has been devastated again by this second war of the 20th century. Still, Powell's writing is powerful while communicating pain.
War brings death, political intrigue, moral compromise, exhaustion. So, Powell's tone, despite comic moments, is sadness for lost friends, hopes, ideals, years.
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More war, more war until finally the allies win. Pamela Flitton slices her way through the men of London.
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Military Philosophers by Anthony Powell

Spoiler alert: as I start writing a few notes on this novel, I am not sure how much of the plot will be revealed
This is the ninth novel of A Dance to The Music of Time. There have been some parts which made me think less of this part than of the rest, but it may just be that I loved the other eight that I had read that I was expecting another thunderous piece of entertainment.

Then there is the question of the war. Even if we are not taken in the midst
Tom Ewing
Jun 04, 2015 rated it liked it
By all accounts the Dance's most autobiographical volume yet, The Military Philosophers' concludes the series bureaucratic engagement with World War II (and with military-cum-office life), chronicling Nick Jenkins' work with Allied Liaison - a parade of Poles, Czechs, Belgians and Brazilians who flit in and out of the book. If I'm honest, it makes for the least enjoyable volume so far, as the turnover of bit parts - hectic even for ADTTMOT, however entertaining they are - coincides with a slight ...more
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some gems:
--The scene where Nick dreads Stevens' impeding show of fake grief--so true;
--Astrology! (Nick is a Sagittarius; Stevens is a run-roughshod Aries; and the newly introduced vixen Pamela Flitton is, of course, a Scorpio.);
--A reference to my favorite painter, James Ensor!;
--Generals as fussy old ladies--LOL!
There could be no doubt, so I was finally forced to decide, that the longer one dealt with them, the more one developed the habit of treating generals like members of the opposite sex
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am now 3/4 of the way through Anthony Powell's magisterial 12-novel cycle, Dance to the Music of Time. It's delicious stuff and, I think, on a par with the greatest novels of the 20th century, Joyce's Ulysses, Kafka's The Trial, Camus' The Stranger, Mann's Buddenbrooks, Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Roth's Call it Sleep, Graham Greene's oeuvre etc.
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
Reached the end of the war, and still this series rolls on. Can't stand Widmerpool and hope to see him come crashing down.
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally getting back to A Dance after quite a break. Still loving the series. There was a section on Proust which I particularly enjoyed, since I've been reading A la recherche this year.
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Such a mental picture of the past was no doubt largely unhistorical, indeed totally illusory, freedom from one sort of humbug merely implying, with human beings of any epoch, thraldom to another. The past, just as the present, had to be accepted for what it thought and what it was."

Really very strong. Taking place during the second half of WWII, Powell's 9th Music of Time novel deals candidly with the rigours of war: the perpetual loss, the feeling of society being one unanimous organ brought t
Mario Hinksman
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Book 9 and the final in the autumn season of a Dance to the Music of Time. I found this, so far, one of the strongest books, in this already brilliant sequence.

There may be a few reasons for this: Most significantly, the entire autumn season is set against the backdrop of the second world war two with Nick Jenkins being stationed first in a Northern Irish training camp and then in a provincial headquarters. While books 7 and 8, both offer something unique, I did start to miss the variety of char
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ninth book in this amazing series takes us through the closing months of World War II. Central character Nick Jenkins remains stationed in London as a liaison officer. At this point, German V1 and V2 rockets have begun falling on the city and the reader gets to experience the fear and anxiety of these attacks through Nick's keen observations. Eventually, the Allied forces prevail and Nick is assigned to escort some of his foreign charges over to Normandy to observe and meet with a chief comm ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the third volume in the series dealing with the war, and for the first time the narrator, Nick Jenkins, is based in London and is closer to the heart of the action. He is working as a liaison officer, dealing with those allies who are in exile. This is both a reminder that Nick is a natural diplomat, an opportunity for much comedy, and a reminder of some of the poignancy of war. We know what fate has in store for many of the Poles and the Czechs Nick has to deal with, and it is a reminde ...more
Matthew Hunter
“I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy power.”
That’s a candid moment from our poopish pal, Kenneth Widmerpool. The coming peace will not end his quest for greater leverage in everything. At least the pathetic fool’s consistent. Might is right in KW’s mental world.

More than 2,000 pages into Powell’s masterpiece, he continues to surprise. I read somewhere that Powell introduces readers to more than 300 characters throughout his A Dance to the Music of Time series. Names come and go, sometimes
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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 1975.
Powell'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".

Other books in the series

A Dance to the Music of Time (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1)
  • A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2)
  • The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3)
  • At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4)
  • Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5)
  • The Kindly Ones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #6)
  • The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7)
  • The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8)
  • Books Do Furnish a Room (A Dance to the Music of Time, #10)
  • Temporary Kings (A Dance to the Music of Time, #11)

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