New Directions is proud to present one of the most spellbinding novels you will read this year, and certainly the weirdest.
First published in 1931,Unclay glows with an unworldly light—Death has come to the small village of Dodder to deliver a parchment with the names of two local mortals and the fatal wordunclay upon it. When he loses the precious sheet, he is at a loss, and also free of his errand. Hungry to taste the sweet fruits of human life, Mr. John Death, as he is now known, takes a holiday in Dorsetshire and rests from his reaping. The village teems with the old virtues (love, kindness, patience) and the old sins (lust, avarice, greed). What unfolds is a witty, earthy, metaphysical, and delicious novel of enormous moral force and astonishing beauty.
Very few 20th-century authors have the knack of writing convincingly of first and last things. T.F. Powys is one of them.Â
Powys’s quaint village brims with eccentrics and sinners, and gentle humor exists alongside a brutal frankness about power and sex. It is hard not to succumb to the strange, animating energy in Powys’s allegorical tale about Death’s redeeming qualities.
An esoteric genius: his books are puzzling, engaging, and illuminating, glowing with a gentle, a half eerie light, humane, ironic and wise. Powys gives pleasure and delight, unique and surprising music.
One of the most original of all English storytellers. T.F. Powys’s novels and the powerfulUnclay ‘stand up like oaks.’
"Unclay is such an odd and unlikely book that it seems scarcely more real than the fictional books Borges delighted in. Behold visions that owe a debt to Blake and the novel’s theological concerns and earthy humor harken back to Swift, but Powys’s ambivalence seems hyper-contemporary:Â I loved this book."
Heretical, scandalous, and mocking, but essentially parables.
Mr. Powys is not a writer for everybody, but I am sure that he is a writer for posterity: indeed, of living authors I consider him the most notable, both as a thinker and a stylist.
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