A Norwegian Review of Waugh’s Career

The latest issue of Agenda Magasin (a Norwegian language journal) includes an extended esaay on the career of Evelyn Waugh and his literary legacy in Norway. This is by Ivar Dale and is written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Waugh’s death. Dale begins by noting that Waugh is best-known in Norway because of the Norwegian broadcast of the Granada TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1982. His Sword of Honour trilogy was translated into Norwegian in the early 1990s, but the other two unidentified books that were translated in  the 1940s are available only in antique shops. This is apparently the extent of the availability of Waugh’s works in Norwegian. The articles continues:

Waugh’s very British tone can be difficult to reproduce in other languages, but it can not be the whole explanation for why he is read more often in neighboring countries. The influential Russian magazine Inostrannaja Literatura devoted a whole month’s April number to him, under the heading “50 years without Waugh.”

After a summary of Waugh’s early life and brief discussion of his first two novels, Dale hones in on Waugh’s third novel, Black Mischief, which he notes has been described by some as pure racism. He goes on to view Waugh’s descriptions of foreigners such as the Africans in Black Mischief in the context of his general satirization of other nationalities, most particularly the British upper classes, and cites the conclusions of Selina Hastings and Douglas Patey defending Waugh against charges of racism.

Dale concludes with a brief review of Waugh’s views on Norway and its citizens as reflected in his writings:

If we Norwegians do not fully appreciate Waugh, the feeling is at least mutual. His ridicule is not confined to distant peoples and climes, as in Remote People (1931) or A Tourist in Africa (1960), but applied equally well to Scandinavians. After a trip to Bergen, Tromsø and Svalbard in 1934, he concluded: “I do not like Norwegians at all. The sun never sets, bars never open and the whole country smells of herring.” He did not find major inspiration in our part of the world beyond that confined to a short article, “The First Time I Went North: Fiasco in the Arctic.” [Essays, Articles and Reviews, p. 144]

An Oslo visit thirteen years later did not improve matters. Vigeland Park is described as “the most depressing spectacle it is possible to encounter; something far more awful than the ruins of Hiroshima.” The park had “no hint anywhere of any intellectual process or spiritual ambition” and Waugh “wondered what hope there was for the people who had made it.”  Oslo City Hall was still under construction in 1947 and Waugh expected that it would eventually become “the most hideous building in the world, both inside and outside.” [Essays, Articles and Reviews, pp. 337, 339]

The translations are by Google Translate, with some adjustments by your correspondent where they appeared appropriate. Where the original of Waugh’s quotes were readily available, they were substituted for the retranslations. Anyone possessing a knowledge of Norwegian who might be able to offer improvements is invited to do so by submitting a comment. The author of the article Ivar Dale has previously contributed comments on the EWS Twitter feed relating to Waugh’s appearances in Russian media and may be persuaded to comment.

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This entry was posted in A Tourist in Africa, Anniversaries, Articles, Black Mischief, Brideshead Revisited, Essays, Articles & Reviews, Remote People, Sword of Honour, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Norwegian Review of Waugh’s Career

  1. Ivar Dale says:

    Yes, I am easily persuaded! Everything seems right – the only thing is that the translation of “Ærens Sverd” is not “General’s Sword” – this means literally “Honour’s Sword” or better – “Sword of Honour”.

    “Reinspikka” is a sort of slang expression, means “clean cut”, so basically “pure racism”.

    Thank you for the review of the review!

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