Waugh in the World

In the current issue of the Italian-language Roman Catholic website Radio Spada, Luca Fumagalli has written an article briefly summarizing what looks like all of Waugh’s novels. The article is in Italian and its title is translated “Teddy Bears, Rosaries, and Wine Stains: A Short Journey through the Novels of Evelyn Waugh”.

In the Indian newspaper The Hindu, there is a review of a new novel set in the 2011 political turmoil in Egypt. The novel is entitled The City Always Wins and is written by Omar Robert Hamilton. One of its themes is the lack of support for the 2011 Egyptian revolution in the countryside. The reviewer (Tabish Khair) describes some of the supporters of the revolution in the novel as “pathos liberals” and cites Evelyn Waugh’s story “The Man who Liked Dickens”:

Mine is not the sort of swooning compliment showered in liberal and leftist circles on this moving novel, but it is not a dismissal either. After all, one of my favourite authors — Charles Dickens … — belongs solidly to the tradition of ‘pathos liberalism.’ But let’s face it: the man who liked Dickens, to refer to the title and agenda of Evelyn Waugh’s savagely satirical story, is no longer just a man or just confined to the Amazonian forests. I will return to this…[T]he aim of this book is impassioned reportage rather than critical insight — which makes it a novel destined to appeal to both the pathos liberalism and the pathos leftism of literary circles in London and New York. But Hamilton cannot be faulted for that, can he? Surely, just as Dickens could not be faulted for the reader in Waugh’s story, the man who liked the pathos of Dickens from his safe, self-centred and (finally) complicit isolation?

For a better understanding of what the reviewer means by “pathos” liberalism and leftism, one needs to read the full review which is available here. Waugh’s story was adopted as the conclusion of his novel A Handful of Dust.

Finally, from another part of Africa comes a opinion article in the New York Times Sunday Review section reporting that the Latin Mass, which Waugh championed in the wake of Vatican II reforms, is alive and well in remoter parts of Nigeria. The article by Matthew Schmitz, editor of the nondenominational religious journal First Things, recounts the history of the unsuccessful attempts to introduce the vernacular Mass among Nigerian tribesman and brings it up to date with the reintroduction of the Latin Mass in more recent years. He cites Evelyn Waugh on this issue:

Evelyn Waugh, a Catholic, realized that these external changes [from Latin to the vernacular] were connected with essential matters. “More than the aesthetic changes which rob the church of poetry, mystery and dignity,” he wrote, “there are suggested changes in faith and morals which alarm me.”

Schmitz concludes with a reference to Waugh’s 1930s story “Out Of Depth” in which Waugh, in a Rip van Winkle episode, saw the Africans as the saviors of the Roman Catholic church in a future London where they had colonized the enfeebled white race:

When the Latin Mass was suppressed at the end of Waugh’s life, his youthful vision of it being said forever looked like folly. If it seems likelier today, it is due in part to people like Bishop Ochiagha and the worshipers here who have preserved an inheritance rejected by others. Against all odds, the body of Christ remains “a shape in chaos,” marked but unbroken by the passing of time.

The story, which was quoted by Schmitz in a recent post, is included in Waugh’s Complete Stories.

UPDATE: In the above posting, the description of the journal First Things was edited.

Share
This entry was posted in A Handful of Dust, Catholicism, Newspapers, Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *