Wednesday, 2 November 2011

John Cowper Powys - Wolf Solent

“Like the entrance to some great highway of ether, whose air-spun pavement was not the colour of dust, but the colour of turquoise, there, at one single point above the horizon, the vast blue sky showed through. Transcending both the filmy whiteness and the vaporous yellowness, hovering above the marshland of Sedgemoor, this celestial Toll-Pike of the Infinite seemed to Wolf, as he walked towards it, like some entrance to an unknown dimension, into which it was not impossible to pass!”
The first of the Wessex novels, John Cowper Powys's Wolf Solent opens out and rolls away like the West Country surroundings it is set in as it rambles through landscape and townscape, following the spiritual journey of its main character (Wolf Solent) after he returns to his West Country roots after a spell in London. With a backdrop of small town shops, manor houses, cricket, fêtes, inns, graveyards and cups of tea as well as numerous local characters, the book follows Mr Solent's perceptions, impressions and preoccupations as he reflects on his heritage and gets himself into a bit of a pickle over two young local ladies. Apart from this romantic quandary, his thoughts frequently turn to meditations on nature and man's place in it, the perils of technological progress, good and evil... it is the force of these perceptions that really set this book apart; as he 'sinks into his own soul' using his own kind of 'mythology', a way of seeing the world through summoning up subconscious powers, often being prompted by some aspect of nature. The descriptions of the surrounding landscape and countryside are meticulous and magnificent in equal measure and are always firmly rooted in their own mythology and history.

“It must have been half past six before he began to recover himself and to look about him. There was hardly a breath of wind stirring. There had fallen upon that part of the West Country one of these luminous late-summer evenings, such as must have soothed the nerves of Romans and Cymri, of Saxons and Northmen, after wild pell-mells of advances and retreats, of alarums and excursions, now as completely forgotten as the death struggles of mediaeval hernshaws in the talons of goshawks.”

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