Writing in his Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung blog, “Don Alphonso” informs his European readers that they cannot understand what is going on in the United States today unless they have first read Waugh’s 1948 novella The Loved One (in German translated as Tod in Hollywood or Death in Hollywood). The title of article is is translated as “European Death in La La Land”:
When I went to America after college entrance exams, I had prepared myself well: I had recorded cassettes with music from the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, and read a travel guide to the mentality of the natives. The travel guide is called “Death in Hollywood” and comes from the pen of the British writer Evelyn Waugh , who elaborated his short and unsuccessful career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles in this … ironic novel. It goes, grosso modo, to the incompatibility of the American way of life with everything, which can even apply as a starting point as European nonconformity, eccentricity and moral flexibility. The virtues of the New World, according to the conclusion, are in a deadly contrast to the elevated manners of Old Europe, and this was exactly the case with my journey. I’ve seen a lot, but that’s enough for me, and whoever avoids the US because Trump is there can just buy Waugh’s book. It is worth it.
Waugh himself was a remarkable figure. He was ethnically very diverse and came from the rich middle classes, had in his youth several homosexual affairs, and for a long time difficulties to find a suitable place in life. He was witty, but flaccid and unadjusted, morally rather questionable and driven by lust and pleasure. It must be conceded that he liked to harass others, and lost a position because he tried a sexual approach in the drunken state. He also converted to Catholicism, which on both Protestant sides of the Atlantic was regarded as a sign of ethical questionableness among the Lutheran and other heretics.
The article goes on to consider the recent reactions of Americans to two eccentric European journalists–Milo Yiannopoulos, formerly of Breitbart, and Laurie Penny, the British radical feminist. He opens the discussion of Yiannopoulos with this thought:
In general, the character of Milo is easily understandable when one knows Waugh, his biography, his work, and particularly the figure of Anthony Blanche in Waugh’s classic “Brideshead Revisited”.
Penny became associated with Yiannopoulos through her German press reports on his appearances at the Republican National Convention and his more recent aborted appearance at UC Berkeley. The article seems to suggest that her position in defending Yiannopoulos has caused her radical feminist audience to turn against her, but something may have been lost in translation on this point. So far as your correspondent is aware, she has caused relatively little stir in the US press, as least as compared to Yiannopoulos. Perhaps some of our readers who can read the original German could elucidate this point.
The article concludes:
Milo and Penny have enriched the American election campaign with an eccentric European note, sort of popcultural looters to the left and right of the mainstream of their respective camps. Both are outsiders to their group and weren’t accepted but for being useful. … It is only logical that they have been discredited with short, brutal beatings and banished into the desert in front of the American cultural Mojave. You could have known it if you had read Waugh. And it will be interesting to see how Milo and Penny are reinventing themselves after their excursions, because their expulsion is far from making their orthodox persecutors – those who do not wear bead chains and do not dance on poles – into something sexy, exciting or presentable in the media. These are terrible people, ghastly, who you would not want to meet.
The translation is by Google and could use some help. The article is generating a lot of comments, several relating to Waugh’s work.
UPDATE (4 March 2017): Thanks to a reader for helping with the translation. See comment below.