Christopher Hitchens’ Last Words on Waugh

The latest New English Review contains a review of the posthumous collection of Christopher Hitchens’ essays entitled, And yet… While there are no essays or reviews devoted to the subject of Evelyn Waugh, he does get a mention:

…one of the most enjoyable essays in the collection is a review of Edmund Wilson’s work. In discussing Wilson’s review of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One Hitchens the atheist gleefully notes:

“An American critic might have chosen to resent the easy shots that Waugh took at Los Angeles and ‘Whispering Glades’; Wilson contented himself with indulgently pointing out that Waugh’s church practiced a far more fantastic and ornamental denial of death than any Californian mortician.”

Hitchens suggests that “Wilson’s political material has dated” and takes him to task over his underestimation of the importance of Kafka, but concludes that Wilson has “come as close to anybody has to making the labor of criticism into art.”

Your correspondent was looking forward to the inclusion of Hitchens’ previously uncollected 2008 article from the Guardian on Brideshead Revisited  entitled “It’s all on account of the war.” It was, alas, not included but can still be viewed on the Guardian’s website and is worth a look. It was better than many of the already rather dated political articles published in what will probably be the last collection of Hitchens’ work.

COMMENT (23 April 2016): In a later review of Hitchens’ book in last week’s TLS, Geoffrey Wheatcroft also mentions the Guardian article but doesn’t remark that it has not found its way into any of Hitchens’ collected works:

…Hitchens suffered acutely from that nostalgie de la guerre which afflicted so many of our generation born in the years after 1945, who’d heard all about fighting and dying, but had never experienced it. He once wrote very perceptively about Brideshead Revisited, and the memory of the First World War which overshadows Evelyn Waugh’s novel. War overshadowed Hitchens himself, the son of a man who had taken part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst in December 1943: “a more solid day’s work than any I have ever done”, as Hitchens revealingly said. Some delayed response may explain the way in which he became one of those cooing Vietnam doves of the 1960s who turned into such squawking hawks in the 1990s and beyond.


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