Penguin Books is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year by publishing 80 books in a Little Black Classics series. These consist of short (c. 60 pp.) extracts from its Penguin Classics series.
Conspicuous by its absence is any extract from a book by Evelyn Waugh, who must be one of Penguin’s consistently best selling authors, with several books in print under its colophon from as early as 1937 (Decline and Fall, No. 75). Other 20th Century novelists whose works were selected include Katherine Mansfield, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence.
Waugh was included in Penguin’s last decennial celebration in 2005, marking 70 years with 70 “Pocket Penguins.” Waugh’s entry was No. 66, “The Coronation of Haile Selassie” , a 57-page extract from Remote People. His omission from the current batch of celebratory booklets may be due to his date of birth (1903). Those qualifying were all born before 1900. The youngest author represented is Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Would it be churlish to wonder whether an author’s work had to be out of copyright to qualify for this latest round?