Two Bloggers and a Librarian Reading Waughs

Two bloggers have been posting comments on their readings of Waugh novels. One, on Brideshead Revisited, the other, on the novels of Auberon Waugh. A German librarian has also contributed a report on her reading of Put Out More Flags:

–Elliot has recently completed Brideshead on his weblog Elliot’s Reading, having noted his progress in several postings dating back to 5 August. Some of these are quite interesting, others not so much, but on the whole they are worth reading. They are available here. The series of comments concludes with this:

In the end, what is Waugh’s point, or point of view? Evidently he was a man of faith, but is it really credible that all will be well for a nasty character like Lord M if he passively accepts his last rites? Sure, Julia has a reaffirmation of her faith at the end, but that doesn’t lead her to any positive, charitable action. The hero to the extent there is one, for me, is youngest child Cordelia (the name is too significant) who has devoted her life to helping others at the cost of some sacrifice of her own potential happiness and comfort. The novel poignantly ends with the narrator, now in the British army, helping prepare the estate for troop occupation during the war – things have changed.

–Nige has started reading the novels of Auberon Waugh, having wondered why they were neglected. His first report (The Foxglove Saga) was posted earlier. He has recently posted his report on the second novel (The Path of Dalliance). This may be found on his website Nigeness, where you can presumably follow his progress. (Hat tip to Dave Lull.) It concludes:

As he blunders through Oxford, and for some while after, Jamey remains under the influence of Cleeve, sending regular reports to one of the Brothers – and of his monstrous, endlessly embarrassing mother, who is perhaps the strongest character in the book. By the end of the story Jamey is, perhaps, beginning to break free and grow up, but you wouldn’t want to bet on it. Path of Dalliance ends back at Cleeve with a reunion of old boys and others. It’s a satisfying and immensely enjoyable read, and surely deserves to be reprinted. My copy was reissued by Robin Clark, along with the other novels, in the Eighties – and that was a long time ago.

–In Greiz, Germany, one of the local librarians contributed a recommedation of Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (in German, Mit Wehenden Fahnen–literally “Waving Flags”) to the local newspaper Ostthüringer Zeitung’s series “Summertime/Reading time”:

The central theme of ‘Put Out More Flags’ by Evelyn Waugh is the outbreak of World War II. He wrote the novel in 1941 on his way home to England after two years of military service in the Middle East. Under these circumstances, one would have to assume that it is a serious or even sad story. But the book is hilarious. … The main character, Basil Seal  … is charming and an absolute Nichtsnutz; he has a  scandalous past and his father disinherited him on his deathbed. …When the war breaks out his mother is quite ready to make a sacrifice and send her disappointing son to the front. After all, the family had no major losses in the First World War. Even Basil’s married lover looks ahead to his heroic death. Meanwhile, his sister Barbara has to deal with the evacuees from the cities on her estate. Not all are easy to care for. When Basil finally finds a suitable position, his chance comes to become a hero. ‘Put out more flags’ is not a typical warrior novel, but rather a satirical social novel. He describes the British upper class between patriotism and opportunism. Waugh himself comes from this milieu. His characters are alive and iridescent, the situations precisely observed and pointed. If you like social satire and black British humor, I recommend this novel.

The German translation of the book was published in 2015 by Diogenes Verlag in Zurich. The translation of the article into English is by Google with very few edits. There seems to be no generally accepted English equivalent for Nichtsnutz, but good-for-nothing is one of the choices.

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