John Cowper Powys se défie de l'affliction autant que de la sérénité. Le philosophe avance, en funambule, sur un fil tendu au-dessus du gouffre de la solitude. Dans une approche présentée comme « libre, sceptique et indépendante », il se propose de « retourner aux sensations fondamentales de la conscience planétaire ». Pour ce faire, en grand érudit, il invoque les présocratiques, Rousseau, le stoïcisme, et renoue avec les philosophies orientales, deux décennies avant la Beat Generation.
Mais l'auteur se fait surtout intraitable critique. Son désir de « rappeler la philosophie », comme sa dénonciation de l'impuissance des grands systèmes philosophiques, résonnent avec force. La recherche de la solitude et le mépris du destin font dès lors office de vaccin contre l'amertume de l'existence.
John Cowper Powys est né en Angleterre en 1872 dans une famille de onze enfants. Il oriente ses premiers écrits vers la recherche poétique, puis officie de nombreuses années comme conférencier aux États-Unis. Notamment célébré pour ses romans, il est aussi l'auteur d'une riche oeuvre philosophique. Plusieurs fois nommé pour le prix Nobel de littérature, il fut admiré par des personnalités aussi diverses que Glenn Gould ou Henry Miller.
After My Fashion has an unusual publishing history. Although it was John Cowper Powys' third novel and written in 1920, it wasn't published until 1980. It seems that when his US publisher turned it down Powys made no effort to place it elsewhere. Indeed, when Powys had finished a book he tended to be oddly indifferent to its fate. The novel has two other unusual features: its locations (Sussex and Greenwich Village); and Isadora Duncan being the inspiration for Elise, the dancer and mistress of the protagonist, Richard Storm (based quite largely on Powys himself).As one would expect from Powys the writing is vivid, not least in the descriptions of the Sussex landscape and the bohemian milieu of Greenwich Village.
Tout être humain se trouve seul au coeur du mental. A la naissance, nous crions ; et ce cri est le cri de la solitude. Ainsi des enfants. Ainsi des adolescents. Et plus nous avançons en âge, plus notre solitude s'accroît. Le conseil le plus avisé qu'une âme puisse proposer à une autre âme est d'accepter cette loi de la nature. Oui, nous devons l'accepter ; et non seulement l'accepter, mais y trouver notre unique et singulière félicité. Uniment, fermement et obstinément nous devons rapporter tous les processus mentaux de notre âge, toutes nos réactions secrètes devant l'univers, toutes les habitudes furtives que nous accumulons dans notre nature intérieure, à cette austère et solennelle vérité. Si nous sommes seuls, inexorablement, lorsque nous retournons au sol primitif, la plus sage des existences est une existence « assemblée à tenon et à mortaise sur la solitude ».
'It is not our struggle to be happy that is mistaken; it is our false idea that we can find happiness anywhere but in ourselves... happiness does not depend on outward things. It is born of the mind, it is nourished by the mind, it is what rises, like breath in a frosty air, from the mind's wrestling with its fate...'The Art of Happiness (first published in 1935) belongs to John Cowper Powys's sequence of philosophical writings, and finds him exploring the problem of how man lives with his fellow man, and also with woman - that is to say, here, as opposed to the abstract arguments concerning Man in the universe, Powys is concerned with the practical arguments such as arise between man and his neighbour, his wife, his lover - and also with man's arguments against himself, all in the pursuit of happiness. The careful reader will find herein hints, clues, intimations, as to how we all might become a little happier - an invitation few of us would feel so fortunate as to refuse.
Wood and Stone was John Cowper Powys' first novel published in 1915. It is no prentice-work however - the author was already in his forties. The novel is set in the area of south Somerset that John Cowper Powys grew up in. The village of Nevilton is based on Montacute where his father was vicar for many years. When he wrote it Powys was living in the USA and it is perhaps this absence that accounts for the heightened vividness of the descriptive writing.Powys deploys a large and wonderfully delineated cast of characters. They are loosely divided between 'the well-constituted' and 'the ill-constituted'. Characteristically Powys favours the latter.
Rodmoor is, unusually for a John Cowper Powys novel, set in East Anglia, Rodmoor itself being a coastal village.The protagonist, Adrian Sorio, is a typically Powys-like hero, highly-strung with only precarious mental stability. He is in love with two women - Nance Herrick and the more unconventional Phillipa Renshaw.This was Powys second novel, published in 1916. It deploys a rich and memorable cast of characters.
Ducdame was John Cowper Powys' fourth novel published in 1925. It is set in Dorset. The protagonist, Rook Ashover (a wonderfully Powysian name) is an introverted young squire with a dilemma: to go on loving his mistress, Netta Page, or, make a respectable marriage and produce an heir.Of his early novels (pre- Wolf Solent) this one is often considered to be the most carefully constructed and best organized. Like them all it contains a gallery of rich, complex characters and glorious writing.
Published in 1954, John Cowper Powys called this novel, a 'long romance about Odysseus in his extreme old age, hoisting sail once more from Ithaca'.As usual there is a large cast of human characters but Powys also gives life and speech to inanimates such as a stone pillar, a wooden club,and an olive shoot. The descent to the drowned world of Atlantis towards the end of the novel is memorably described, indeed, Powys himself called it 'the best part of the book'.Many of Powys's themes, such as the benefits of matriarchy, the wickedness of priests and the evils of modern science which condones vivisection are given full rein in this odd but compelling work.
In this panoramic novel of Friar Roger Bacon, John Cowper Powys displays his genius at its most fecund. First published in 1956, this novel, set in thirteenth-century Wessex, is an amalgam of all the qualities that make John Cowper Powys unique.The love-story of Lil-Umbra and Raymond de Laon, and the quest of the Mongolian giant, Peleg, for Ghosta, the girl seen, loved, and lost on the battlefield, are intermingled with the historical, theological and magical threads which form the brocade of this novel.Dominating all is the mysterious creation of Roger Bacon one of the boldest as well as most intricate of Powys' world-changing inventions. Professor G. Wilson Knight called this 'A book of wisdom and wonders'.