Waugh in Brazil and in National Review

The Milan newspaper Il Foglio carries an article in Italian by Marco Archetti about Evelyn Waugh’s 1934 travel book Ninety-Two Days. After a quote from the book and some biographical background, Archetti explains the trip to Brazil:

One cannot know what causedĀ this twenty-nine-year-old Englishman–who forĀ a long time could not decide between painting and writing, hadĀ a past of carefree brief affairs, married Ā a “homonym” (“She-Evelyn and He-Evelyn,” they were called) but soon separated, and hadĀ a shriveled and disgusting mussolinofilia–to cover the wild stretch between Georgetown, Guyana and the Brazilian state of Roraima, struggling with nature, insects, the fury of the elements and the imperturbability of the inhabitants of the most remote outposts . But he knows an artifact: a story that wasĀ told to him of Boa Vista. And it was enough for him, because, if it is true that he travels because, says Waugh, itĀ is part of life, he also travels because there is always a fairy tale to light our desires asĀ eternal children who are subject to the spell of words more than to things, to the mirage of illusion rather than to the impetuous solidity of the world.

After describing how Waugh learned of Boa Vista and made his arduous journey, Archetti then concludes with what he found when he got there:

…Ā after tremendous crossings with suspicious stock, after the fifteen huts in Surana, dry slides, after tiredness, dust, insomnia, snakes and nausea, there was Boa Vista: a handful of dilapidated buildings. Because the truth is that no one goes to Boa Vista, no one rides itsĀ hardened mud roads that go off in dusty trails in the four directions. So it is only left to leave, enduring in silence the truth of the journey – it begins as it ends – with bitterness.

The translation is by Google with some edits and any suggestions for improvement would be welcome.

The current National Review carries a book review by Terry Teachout of recent biographies of F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway (“Two Kinds of People”). In describing Hemingway’s legacy, Teachout is reminded of Evelyn Waugh:

The trouble with Hemingway, seen from the privileged vantage point of hindsight, is that he looks increasingly like a great influence but not a great author in his own right. No 20th-century writer would leave a deeper mark on his contemporaries, and as late as 1948, Evelyn Waugh, no respecter of reputations, unhesitatingly described him in print as ā€œone of the most original and powerful of living writers.ā€ Yet all but the very finest of his short stories now sound mannered and artificial, while the novels come off as little more than sustained exercises in mirror-gazing and pose-striking. I would like to like him more than I do, but the truth is that I find him almost unreadable, and my chronic distaste for his work is more than merely an allergy.

The quote comes from Waugh’s review (“Winner Take Nothing”) of Hemingway’s late work Across the River and into the Trees which appeared in The Tablet, 30 September 1950, and is reprinted in EAR, p. 391.


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