A Handful of Dutch

The Dutch business/economic journal Het Financieele Dagblad opens a story entitled “Tragish Akkoord” (Tragic Agreement) with a paragraph about Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust. This is written by by Ferdinand Grapperhaus and involves a complex political deal relating to labour rights in the Netherlands :

Evelyn Waugh was a master of the tragic satire. [That is the literary form in which, in our perverse enjoyment of the main characters, even we the readers are pulled into terrible events where we start laughing.* ] Thus, Waugh describes in A Handful of Dust an upper class couple living together, who completely neglect their only child and leave it to heartless nannies and uninterested butlers  – all described hilariously. Eventually, during a hunt, no one is watching, and the boy is trampled to death by a horse. Waugh arranges that all stakeholders arrive late at the scene of the accident, and closes the chapter with the ominous sentence: They all agreed it was nobody’s fault.

* This sentence was originally deleted due to translation problems. A better translation has now kindly been provided by one of our readers, David Woods.  It is reproduced here in both the original Dutch and the Google translation:

Dat is de literaire vorm waarbij wij in ons leedvermaak om de hoofdpersonen worden meegelokt naar verschrikkelijke gebeurtenissen waarbij zelfs ons, lezers, het lachen vergaat  (Google Translation: That is the literary form in which we are lured into our schadenfreude for the protagonists to terrible events which reduces us readers to laughter.)

The sense of the article seems to be that in 2013 the parties to what they thought was an  agreement on a  politically sensitive labor problem now confront each other with the same conclusion– that what they thought was an agreement wasn’t, perhaps because no one was paying sufficient attention, but it’s nobody’s fault. 

UPDATE (18 January 2017): A better translation has now been provided for bracketed sentence in the text. See comment below. Many thanks to David Woods for his help.

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2 Responses to A Handful of Dutch

  1. David Woods says:

    I think it’s better using the phrase “perverse enjoyment” for “leedvermaak” – so something like ” that is the literary form in which, in our perverse enjoyment of the main characters, even we the readers are pulled into terrible events where we start laughing”. I need to play around with it a bit more and perhaps tweak the syntax, but I think it gives the sense of what’s intended better than Google!
    On a completely different point, can anyone in the EWS shed light on when the OUP is actually going to start publishing the Complete Works – I can’t find any reference on the Leicester site, the OUP site or Amazon…………..many thanks

  2. Mark Pinkerton says:

    Love ‘hoofdpersonen’.

    Think I’ll use it in future instead of that good old English word ‘schadenfreude’.

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