Radio Spada, the Roman Catholic news website based in Italy, has published a review by Luca Fumagalli of Waugh’s Decline and Fall (published in Italian as Declino e caduta). This review covers both the book and the recent BBC TV serial which is available in Italy on a DVD. The review begins with the book:
Social satire, the dusk of the aristocracy and the criticism of modern culture are themes that the author develops with a cynical, but never desperate look, describing everything with disillusionment and implacable irony. Like all the first works, Decline to Fall is not without defects. An awkward Waugh struggles to mix grotesque with black humor, and the novel, among the most humorous in his bibliography, lacks perhaps the space needed to deepen the character psychologies, which are a bit too squared and charicatured. Except for these limits, however, the book convinces. The reading is pleasant, the pages flow quickly…
After summarizing the plot, Fumagalli concludes that the TV adaptation:
…follows the story of the novel quite faithfully. The direction of Guillem Morales is to translate the chapters of the book into images, taking little space for improvisations and fun games. The skillful actors are all very convincing; equally praiseworthy are the costumes and settings that make the atmosphere of the era so effective. The mini-series has, above all, the merit of being able to return the high value of the criticism that Waugh puts on the upper-class emptiness of the post-war period, making the world a bit like ours, a no longer moral place where the death and drama are narrated with light humor, where everything stinks of decay and ashes.
Following some specific comments on the characters of Otto Silenus, Margot Beste-Chetwynde, and the prison governor (who represents “the Anglican Church, painted as a receptacle for agnostics rather than for devoted Christians, and the liberal-progressive imprisonment reforms promoted by him do nothing more than provoke new tragedies”), the review concludes:
The DVD, available at major online retailers, is therefore absolutely unmissable. Decline and Fall, in addition to witnessing the disgust for the world that, later on, led Waugh to embrace Catholicism, is a contemporary and up to date watch, an excellent tool to understand the roots of that madness that makes any perversion (moral or intellectual) lawful which today, unfortunately, governs the world…
The translation is by Google Translate with minor edits and some help from a reader.
UPDATE (28 May 2017): Thanks to reader Roberto Lionello for help with the translation.