London Papers Report Burning of “Scoop” Hotel in Addis Abba

The London papers today reported that a hotel in Addis Abba described in Waugh’s writings was badly damaged in a fire. See Daily Mail (“Fire guts Ethiopian hotel made famous by ‘Scoop'”).  Similar stories appeared in the Daily Telegraph and Guardian.  Now called the Hotel Itegue Taitu, in Waugh’s day it was the Imperial. This was the hotel where the press corps stayed in great discomfort, four to a room. It was thinly disguised as the “Splendide” in Waugh in Abyssinia and inspired the Hotel Liberty in Scoop.

This was not, however, contrary to the London press reports, where Waugh himself stayed while covering the war for the Daily Mail.  As explained in William Deedes’ 2003 memoir, At War With Waugh (pp. 24-25), Waugh chose to stay in a less crowded billet. When Deedes arrived in Addis in 1935 to cover the looming war for the Morning Post, Waugh suggested that Deedes join him there. This was the Deutches Haus, called in Waugh’s novel Pension Dressler. Waugh dispatched at least one letter identifying the Deutches Haus as his address in Addis and in another told Penelope Betjeman to send him a Christmas pudding to that address (Letters, pp. 98, 102). Although William Boot in Scoop does stay in the Hotel Liberty before moving to the Pension Dressler, I find nothing in Waugh’s writings to suggest he himself followed that trail from the Imperial to the Deutches Haus. See Waugh in Abyssinia, pp. 66-72.

Deedes identifies the Taitu as the hotel favored by most of the press corps and written about by Waugh.  This is in his memoir (p. 126) of a return journey he made to Addis in 2000. But Deedes does not claim to have himself stayed in the Taitu prior to moving into the Deutches Haus with Waugh. Nor does he say whether he sought out the Deutches Haus in 2000 to see whether it, like the Taitu, was still functioning.

Thanks to EWS member R.M.Davis for a link to this story.

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