Brideshead Revisited x 2

A Roman Catholic magazine, the Homilitic and Pastoral Review (HPR), has published a feature length article entitled “ Sacraments in Brideshead Revisited”. The magazine is aimed at church professionals and specializes in articles on “doctrine, spiritual guidance, morality and authentic pastoral practice.” The Brideshead article, by Sr Albert Marie Surmanski, O P,  focuses on the sacraments (primarily anointing of the sick and marriage) as they are described and applied in the novel. For her texts she chooses Charles Ryder’s questioning of the need for a priest to be brought into Lord Marchmain’s sick room (for which she provides an answer) and the description of the sacramental anointing of the sick as performed by Fr Mackay at the end of the novel. In the case of anointing, the text becomes very detailed and reviews the actual mechanics of the sacrament’s application in what is intended to be one of the most important scenes in the novel:

Several of the details in [Waugh’s] description are inaccurate: anointing of the sick is given with blessed oil of the sick, not chrism; priests anoint with their own hands, not cotton balls, but the power of the sacrament is described with consummate skill.

These “errors” may, of course, have been recognized as such by Waugh but intended to contribute to the character of the unpretentious country priest. Sr Surmanski does not address that point as it is, perhaps, beyond the scope of her article. Overall, the article explains the application of the sacraments in the context of Waugh’s novel in dispassionate terms that can be understood by laymen as well as professionals. But it probably would help to be familiar with the Roman Catholic liturgy and ritual to fully appreciate many of the details.

Another article has appeared in the Norwegian press about the recently published new translation of Brideshead Revisited into Norwegian (Gjensyn med Brideshead). This appears in the daily newspaper Vårt Land and is a review by Kristian Wikborg Wiese of the new translation of the novel by Johanne Fronth-Nygren. See previous posts. After summarizing the plot, the reviewer makes several comments about the translation. This is praised for successfully using appropriate Norwegian language to convey the social status of the English characters. The reviewer also offers what may be an original insight into the character of Charles Ryder as reflected in the forms of dialogue in which the book is written:

When we are in dialogue, a striking feature of the novel is the often long monologues some of the people speak to Charles Ryder. Whether it’s his father, the southern European and gay Anthony Blanche, or Sebastian Flyte’s sister Julia. In these cases it is clear that the main character chooses to listen rather than speak. This characteristic can be interpreted as the main character being a man in search of something bigger, more meaningful. But through Charles, the narrator of the book, we are at the same time part of an introspective journey, where the protagonist focuses on himself, in order to make sense through the memories. For a while he seeks cover in art. He lives as a painter and lives in a loveless marriage he later chooses to leave. But by constantly listening to other people, taking part in their experiences and thoughts, whether it is theological or social considerations, he is led towards a religious awakening. This comes gradually, and it is not until the last pages of the book it becomes clear that Charles Ryder has left his agnostic self for the benefit of religion.

The translation is by Google with minor edits. The translation is readable but struggles a bit in the final section where it describes Cordelia’s dealings with the African mission:

For example, Cordelia, the youngest of the Brideshead children, boasts “Six Black Cordelias”. This resulted from six occasions, on which she sent five divorces [should read “five shillings”] to some nuns in Africa, who in turn baptized six children and named them after her./Cordelia, den yngste av Bridesheadene, kan for eksempel skilte med «seks sorte Cordeliaer». Et resultat av at hun ved seks anledninger har sendt fem skilling til noen nonner i Afrika, som igjen har døpt seks barn og oppkalt de etter henne.

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