Waugh’s New Year in Dutch Journal

An Amsterdam newspaper has posted an article on an Evelyn Waugh New Year’s celebration. This is entitled Brideshead is een diamant” (“Brideshead is a diamond”) by Willem Pekelder and is on the website of the newspaper Trouw. It was inspired by the current rebroadcast of the 1981 TV series on the Netherlands network ONS:

“I hear that they are talking of starting a new year.” That is what Evelyn Waugh notes on New Year’s Day 1926 in his diary. A magnificent sentence. So full of ironic world-abuse that you want to read it a hundred times. The phrase reflects the mood of Waugh at that moment. After a suicide attempt in the previous year, he hopes ‘that 1926 will go more smoothly’. Waugh, until then a schoolmaster in Wales, has to wait another four years for that success. In 1930 he breaks through as a literary writer with ‘Vile Bodies‘. Other novels follow, including his magnum opus ‘Brideshead Revisited’(1945). The TV version of that book is now being repeated on the nostalgia channel ONS. And just like previous times… I watch it breathlessly again. Why? Because ‘Brideshead Revisited’ is a diamond that always shows a different, brilliant facet…Once you’ve read ‘The Diaries’ you know that ‘Brideshead’ is highly autobiographical. The protagonist Lord Sebastian Flyte (on TV: Anthony Andrews) is depressed, drinking and cutting homosexually. Just like Waugh.

That’s a bit of a stretch. Waugh is usually taken as depicting elements of himself in the middle class artist Charles Ryder who succeeds in breaking into the upperclasses, rather than in Sebastian who is already there. The article continues:

In ‘The Diaries‘ the alcohol vapor will wash you from page one. And not just on New Year’s Eve 1925 in Paris (‘each a bottle of champagne each in a café called Prado and Bill talked about Tony for several hours and was drunk’). The diary is a series of drink layers. 12 June 1930: ‘both of us too drunk to enjoy ourselves.’ Waugh represses his homosexuality and…, marries two times with noble ladies….

Translation is by Google with some edits.

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