Waugh Surfaces in Bosnia

Mark Lawson in this week’s New Statesman reviews a novel by Jesse Armstrong which is said to have a distinct Wavian influence: Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals.  (The choice of title would not appear to have been influenced by Waugh.) This is the first effort at a novel by screenwriter Armstrong, with credits for such satirical TV and film scripts as The Thick of It, The Peep Show and In the Loop. The story involves the travels of several British young people to Bosnia in 1994 seeking adventures such as their predecessors found in Spain during the 1930s civil war. Waugh enters the plot after they arrive on the scene:

As the bright young things and the out-of-his-depth duffer blunder into geopolitical jeopardy, a literary discussion in a battle-scarred bar throws up the name of Evelyn Waugh. This seems fair because Armstrong’s novel can be read as a synthesis of elements from Waugh’s 1930s satires about the English in foreign conflicts: Black Mischief, Scoop and A Handful of Dust, to which a river sequence seems directly to allude. Armstrong, though, has rather more jokes than Waugh about “dongs” and fewer racial stereotypes, although Bosnian Serb warlord readers may disagree.

Lawson praises the book as “the best Waugh-like war story debut novel since William Boyd’s A Good Man in Africa almost 35 years ago.”

NOTICE (added 14 May 2015): The Spectator’s reviewer this week finds another allusion to Waugh in Armstrong’s new novel:

Not surprisingly, he has a real flair for comic dialogue. In his tale of the hapless and randy Andrew, a working-class boy who blags his way onto a Ford transit van full of good-hearted lefties on their way to solve the Bosnian war in 1994, he give us an updated version of Evelyn Waugh’s Paul Pennyfeather from Decline and Fall.

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