Waugh Cited in Arsenal Manager Crisis

The ongoing crisis in the status of Arsene Wenger as manager of the Arsenal FC has resulted in a quote from Waugh in the Guardian. This appears in a posting of Marina Hyde on the Guardian's Sportblog  considering this long pending matter:

Perhaps all unfathomable matters in Britain warrant some sort of comparison to the Royal Family, the latter having been the most enduringly unfathomable part of national life for so long. Wenger is very much at royal-comparison stage now, with his departure endlessly spoken of as a moment of “abdication”. But do consider Evelyn Waugh’s amusing diary entry on the original abdication crisis, a period that has been hammed-up more in retrospect than it was at the time. “The Simpson crisis has been a great delight to everyone,” Waugh wrote. “At Maidie’s nursing home they report a pronounced turn for the better in all adult patients. There can seldom have been an event that has caused so much general delight and so little pain.” (Diaries, p. 415)

The quote is from a diary entry dated 4-8 December 1936 a few days before the abdication was finally signed on 10 December and Edward VIII's farewell speech delivered the next day. Waugh was commenting on the crisis leading up to the abdication rather than the act itself, which makes the quote perfectly applicable to the Wenger situation.

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Washington Post Recommends Scoop

In a feature length op-ed article in the Washington Post ("Dystopian Fiction is Big Now"), Christopher Scalia makes Waugh's Scoop recommended reading. He begins by describing the unexpected (and probably unintended) result of Donald Trump's election as having made reading great again, citing the best seller status bestowed on such classic dystopian novels as Orwell's 1984, Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale.

Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, believes that Scoop has equal relevance for today's readers. He cites fake news (Wenlock Jakes) and the herd instincts habits of the press corps (they all leave town on a false trail leaving the inexperienced Boot to scoop them when a story breaks).  These themes have been mentioned in several other recent articles arguing Scoop's relevance to today's news. Scalia also cites another facet of Scoop which others have overlooked:

...the novel’s depiction of an insular, gullible and sometime dishonest press will strike a chord with many readers in the Age of Trump — or in the Age of the Anti-Trump Media. For one thing, the novel’s London press is detached from life outside of the city. The view Boot’s editor has of rural life reads like a parody of the American press corps’ unfamiliarity with rural America: “His knowledge of rural life was meagre. … there was something unEnglish and not quite right about ‘the country’, with its solitude and self-sufficiency, its bloody recreations, its darkness and silence and sudden, inexplicable noises; the kind of place where you never knew from one minute to the next that you might not be tossed by a bull or pitch-forked by a yokel or rolled over and broken up by a pack of hounds.”

He compares Salter's detachment from rural reality as well as the Fleet Street papers' uniformity of content with that of the current US press corps who knew so little of the country beyond its urban coastlines that they failed to see Trump coming. The article concludes:

To be sure, were he still alive, Waugh would not be wearing a red MAGA cap with his tweed coat. Always skeptical of America and modernity, Waugh may have seen Trump as the greatest emblem of what’s wrong with both...Nevertheless, “Scoop” accurately captures why so many Americans distrust the press and its power. As Hitchens put it, “Scoop endures because it is a novel of pitiless realism; the mirror of satire held up to catch the Caliban of the press corps.” The reflection is familiar today.

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BBC Media Pack for Decline and Fall Available Online

The BBC's Media Pack for its production of Decline and Fall is available online. This includes Q&A's for the major characters and short introductions and photos for the others. There are also Q&A's for the writer (James Wood) and the director (Guillem Morales). Here is Wood's summary of the script:

We are doing three hour long episodes and the book moves through three different worlds... It's been a huge and very entertaining challenge pulling off what is effectively three one hour films that all still feel like the same show. The first episode is set in a horrendous minor Welsh public school, populated with lunatics and monsters. The second episode is set in Margot's high society world and Kristian the production designer has built an amazing modernist home that Margot lives in. That world is all parties and decadence and has something of a Noel Coward feel. And the third episode largely takes place in a prison. Paul Pennyfeather is the thread that pulls us through those worlds but it's been a real challenge, an exciting challenge for everyone, pulling off those three worlds and making it feel like a whole.

When you open the link, the menu for the more detailed information is located to the right of the photograph. Most of the information appearing in recent press reports plus additional details are available in this media pack.

On another website, the information for the release of the DVD of the production is provided: 

❉ ‘Decline and Fall’ (Certificate: 15) is released on 17 April 2017. Acorn Media UK Cat No: AV3352, RRP: £ 19.99. Running Time: 3 x 60 mins approx. plus bonus features.

❉ Special features include: Three behind the scenes featurettes: Adaptation; Satire; On Set and picture gallery

This is available for pre-release order from Amazon.co.uk. It is in Region 2 DVD format and will not play on DVD players purchased outside of Europe without reprogramming. Most DVD players on computers will allow you to change regions a limited number of times.

UPDATE (25 March 2017): Amazon.co.uk now indicates that the DVD of Decline and Fall can be delivered to the USA. The post has been amended accordingly. 

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Tabloid Feeding Frenzy on Waugh Adaptation

After the announcement of its debut later this month, the London tabloids are making a media meal of the BBC's production of Decline and Fall and its stars--mostly the latter. There are stories in the Sun, Mirror, Express and Star, with an additional story in the Mail, which had provided an earlier feature article on the project. These latest stories deal mostly with actress Eva Longoria who plays the role of Margot Beste-Chetwynde. Most typical is perhaps the story in the Sun accompanied with lavish illustrations of Longoria. Her part is described as that of a "Welsh housewife", harking back to her previous performance in the successful US TV series Desparate Housewives. The Welsh reference is a bit more obscure in the case of Margot.

The most interesting story appears in iNews which has reported the interviews of lead actors Jack Whitehall and David Suchet in greater detail than the other papers. Here are a few excerpts:

"It really is raucously funny in the first episode [explains Whitehall] – knockabout and farcical. But in later episodes, it goes to a much darker place, and I enjoy watching that kind of stuff.” ... The comedy in Decline and Fall works because the cast do not play it for laughs. “We played it straight, within our own world of eccentricity,” says Suchet. “I think that’s where this comedy sits because it’s truthful and yet it’s not one hundred percent real in style.” ... This may be a social satire written in the 1920s, but it is just as relevant in the present day “Throughout the three episodes, there are tiny little hints and subtle references that have echoes in the present day,” says Whitehall. “That helps the satire really resonate"... 

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Bodleian Acquires Ducker Archives

Oxford's Bodleian Library has announced the acquisition of the ledger books of the bespoke shoemakers Ducker and Son located for many years on The Turl. See earlier post. The acquisition was made at auction with the the financial support of the Friends of the Bodleian. The importance of the collection to Waugh studies is explained on the Bodleian's website:

The ledgers were seen as a valuable addition to the Libraries collections given their connection with the history of the University and many prominent literary figures whose papers are already held at the Bodleian. The Library ... is currently supporting OUP in its production of the first ever complete works of Evelyn Waugh, by providing access to important editions of his books. 'We are delighted that we have been able to save this fascinating piece of Oxford history and to keep the Duckers ledgers in the city where they have been for more than a century,' said Dr Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries...Two pages of entries for Evelyn Waugh suggest that he was a loyal customer, buying approximately 20 pairs of shoes or boots between 1930 and 1946.

One page of the Waugh ledger is reproduced on the Bodleian's website. An earlier, perhaps more interesting page, accompanies a story in the Financial Times reporting the Bodleian's acquisition. This shows Waugh's purchases in the years between 1930 and 1933 (although there seems to be a balance in excess of £7 transferred from an earlier account). At the top of the entry, his address progresses from North End Road NW11 to Piers Court, Stinchcombe, Glos. At one point he gave his address, somewhat presumptuously, as "Madresfield Court, Gt. Malvern." The Bodleian is mounting an exhibit of the ledgers this weekend 24-26 March at the Weston Library: In their shoes: the historic ledgers of Oxford shoemakers Ducker & Son.

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BBC Decline and Fall Homepage Reveals New Treat

The BBC has posted its homepage for its adaptation of Waugh's Decline and Fall that will begin later this month. This will provide a link to the program for those watching it over the internet on BBC iPlayer. The posting contains a full list of the cast in order of appearance. This includes the announcement of an additional treat for fans of 1980s TV adaptations in the golden age of that genre. The opening scene will apparently have the Junior Dean (Sniggs) and Domestic Bursar (Postlethwaite, misspelled on the BBC site) of Scone College discussing the likely outcome of the Bollinger Club's activities. These parts will be played by Tim Piggott-Smith and Nicholas Grace, respectively. Piggott-Smith made his name as the creepy Police Superintendent Ronald Merrick in Paul Scott's  The Jewel in the Crown and Grace was the definitive Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited. Both series were produced by Granada TV for the ITV network.

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Maud Russell Diaries in Telegraph

Excerpts from the wartime diaries of Maud Russell have been published in the Daily Telegraph. In a previous post it was explained how she commissioned Rex Whistler to paint murals in her country house at Mottisfont in Hampshire where there is currently an exhibit of Whistler's works. The excerpts relate mostly to her relationship with novelist Ian Fleming. According to the Telegraph's introduction:

They met in 1931 when Russell was 40 and Fleming just 23. There was a strong mutual attraction, and Fleming quickly became a regular guest at Mottisfont, Russell’s 2,000-acre estate in Hampshire, and at the glamorous parties she threw in her Knightsbridge home, attended by Cecil Beaton, Lady Diana Cooper, Clementine Churchill, Margot Asquith and members of the Bloomsbury Group. To Fleming, Russell was a sophisticated and impeccably connected mentor who found him first a job in banking, introduced him to members of the Intelligence Corps and, later, paid for his Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye, where his 007 novels were written. To Russell, Fleming (named ‘I.’ in her diaries) was the dashing, charismatic young spy who became her close friend, her confidante – and her lover. These entries from Russell’s private diary take place towards the end of the Second World War, when Fleming worked in naval intelligence and Russell, then 52, was recently widowed; it was a time when, despite the food shortages and air raids, the tide of the war was gradually turning in the Allies’ favour – and, despite his other liaisons, the couple spoke of marriage.

Waugh is not mentioned in these excerpts but many of his friends are, including his correspondent Ann Fleming, who married Ian Fleming in 1952, ending his affair with Russell. At the end of the article, Waugh does get a brief mention. This is in a list of record prices for first editions. Top price was for The Great Gatsby (£246,636), with Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel Casino Royale at #4 (£29,180) and Waugh's Decline and Fall at #10 (£9,364; this is ranked as #9 on the Telegraph's list but this is due to a typo). No source or date for these sales is cited. The Telegraph's article concludes:

Russell and Fleming remained close until his marriage to Ann Charteris in 1952. In 1946 she gave him £5,000 to buy Goldeneye in Jamaica. She had a long-term affair with [Russian artist] Boris Anrep but never remarried. In 1957, she donated Mottisfont to the National Trust and died in London in 1982, aged 91. Her ashes were placed in the same urn as [her husband] Gilbert’s.

Maud Russell's wartime diaries are published as A Constant Heart.

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New Norwegian Translation of Brideshead

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has published a review of a new Norwegian translation of Brideshead Revisited ("Gjensyn sed Brideshead"). The translation is by Johanne Fronth-Nygren and is based on Waugh's 1959 revision of the text. The book is published by Gyldendal. The only Norwegian version up to now was based on the original 1945 edition, and Waugh's explanation for why he changed the original was not available. 

The review is entitled "Evelyn Waugh: the Writer who Excused his own Work" ("Forfatteren som unnskyldlte sitt eget verk") and relies heavily on Waugh's introduction to the 1959 revision. The reviewer (Anne Merthe K. Prinos) sees this publication as part of the renewed interest in country house novels, citing other recent examples by Allan Hollinghurst, Ian McEwen and Sarah Waters as well as the Downton Abbey TV series. She explains how the country house affects the "literary productivity" of the story--the larger the house and the more the inhabitants, the greater the possibilities for plot twists. The country house also plays a symbolic function by representing the upper class hegemony in England.  

The translation is described as elegant. The translator explains that conveying the love story between Charles and Julia was relatively easy but that it was harder to interpret the ending where they must part due to religion. As a Roman Catholic, Waugh considered this a happy ending, but this is too subtle for the non-believing reader. The translator concludes that the book can only be understood when one rereads (or revisits) it ("ved giensynet").

The translation of the Aftenpost article was by Google and any suggestions from readers to improve the summary or the specific Norwegian quotes in the posting are welcome in the form of comments as provided below. 

UPDATE (23 March 2017): See comment below from the translator of the book Johanne Fronth-Nygren. The posting has been slightly revised. Many thanks for these comments.

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Penguin UK Issue TV Tie-in Edition of Decline and Fall

Penguin Books have announced the publication of a TV tie-in edition of Waugh's first novel Decline and Fall. This will be issued later this week on 23 March 2017. Aside from a cover photo of Jack Whitehall looking rather clueless in a knitted vest, there is no indication of any special features that will be included in this edition. The list price is £8.99 but it will be on offer from Amazon.uk for £6.99 plus applicable shipping charges and can be ordered for shipment to the US.

It is not clear from available information whether this edition will be based on the original 1928 or revised 1962 texts. In the preface to the 1962 edition Waugh explains that when he offered the text to Duckworths, who had published his first book, Rossetti, they rejected it. So he took it down the street to Chapman and Hall, at a time when his father, the director of that firm, was out of town. The manuscript was examined by his father's colleague who

made a few suggestions which I accepted...He also made some literary criticisms which were, perhaps, less valuable. The result was a text differing slightly from the original manuscript. In this [1962] edition I have restored these emendations. The changes are negligible but since the book was being reset, it seemed a good time to put the clock back a minute or two.

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WWII Yugoslavia Revisited

A new collection of articles about the Balkans by Irish writer Hubert Butler has been published in Ireland. This is entitled Balkan Essays, and at its center is a group of essays collected as the "Yugoslavia Suite". The book is reviewed in the Irish Times by Roy Foster who comments on this section as follows: 

...The essays exploring the traumatic history of the region during the 1940s center on the terrible forced conversions and murder of Orthodox Christians by the Nazi-supported authorities of “Independent Croatia”. Butler’s dogged postwar campaign (backed by deep-level research in Zagreb) fell foul of those determined to represent Archbishop Stepinac as a pure and simple martyr to communism. Butler reiterates that Stepinac’s role was passive compared with some of his clerical colleagues’, but the archbishop also (as editor Chris Agee points out) bears a strong affinity to the modern Organisation Man most terrifyingly represented by Adolf Eichmann, the subject of another essay here. ... A further advantage of the concentration of this material is the extended treatment given to comparisons between Ireland and Croatia (including a suave letter from Butler correcting Evelyn Waugh’s assumption that there were parallels between the Ustashe movement in the 1940s and Sinn Féin between 1916 and 1923).

Waugh's "assumption" re the Ustase and Sinn Fein probably refers to his 1945 report to the British government, published nearly 50 years later as "Catholic Croatia Under Tito's Heel," Salisbury Review, September 1992. At p. 13 Waugh wrote:

The Ustase, who comprise the most fanatical and ferocious of the Croat nationalists, were in origin a secret society; they came into the open in April 1941, since when their activities have occurred in enemy-occupied territory; the only available evidence about them comes from violently antagonistic sources. It is thus impossible to give any documented or impartial account of them. In many ways they appear to have been similar to Sinn Fein. (Indeed, there are many similarities between the position of Croatia in 1939 and Ireland in 1914). 

While Sinn Fein were undoubtedly a nasty piece of work from the perspective of 1945, it may be the case that once Waugh became aware of the horrific details of the Ustase's activities, he might not have offered that comparison. The essay collection edited by Chris Agee is currently for sale in Ireland from the link in the Irish Times but is not yet on offer from Amazon.com or its subsidiaries.  

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