Middle Eastern Newsblog Cites Waugh Novel

A Middle Eastern newsblog Mada Masr has run an article about the parlous financial circumstances of three Lebanese newspapers. According to the blogger, Makram Rabah, to some extent this is attributable to these papers’ over-reliance on the support of influential families seeking to use them as private soapboxes. This reminds him of a similar situation described in Waugh’s novel Black Mischief:

In this famous novel, Black Mischief (1932), English writer Evelyn Waugh writes about Azania: a fictional African island in the Indian Ocean. Basil Seal is an Oxford graduate, who was assigned to help the English-educated Emperor Seth of Azania to modernize his country. A conversation takes place between Seal and the owner of the Courier D’ Azanie, the somewhat mediocre one-page publication. The publication’s longtime proprietor, Mr. Bertrand, refuses Seal’s offer to buy his paper and replies with a very revealing remark, which is somewhat fitting for Lebanon’s newspapers. “I am someone because I own this newspaper and if I accept to sell it to you, I will become a no one.”

The passage appears in the Penguin edition (1962), pp. 124-26. In the end M. Betrand agrees to sell out to Basil, who has ambitious plans to expand the paper and make it the Ministry of Modernization’s mouthpiece, in return for Betrand’s remaining editor and nominal proprietor. He leaves the meeting with a “fair-sized cheque” and Basil’s notes for the Courier’s next leading article.

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