Yugoslavia and Ishmaelia

Dr Robert Hickson has posted another of his “essays” on Waugh’s life and works on the weblog catholicism.org. These should not be mistaken for religious dicussions but are rather compilations of writings from Waugh’s works or memoirs of his contemporaries about specific subjects identified as of interest by Dr Hickson. His latest contribution relates to Waugh’s service in wartime Yugoslavia, a matter of current interest in view of the opening of a play about this subject (Happy Warriors) at a North London theatre. Here is an excerpt from Dr Hickson’s explanation about the inspiration of his latest essay:

Having recently read much of Captain Evelyn Waugh’s Diaries and Letters and Essays written during World War II, I knew that I could not briefly summarize their content and their manifold importance. But, as a result, I have come even more so now to honor him and his integrity as a risk-taking and valorous combatant officer. [… ]Waugh was […] placed under an […] eccentric Commanding Officer, Major Randolph Churchill, who was [also] his own admittedly intermittent friend. […] Since Waugh was himself also an eccentric officer, his relationship with Randolph Churchill was often strained and brashly breached, while at the same time also being comic and ironical. Therefore, this essay proposes to depict some of this bristling and tumultuous but finally perduring friendship; also to show Evelyn Waugh’s enduring integrity as a Catholic military officer.

What follows is mostly extended quotations from Waugh’s Diaries, memoirs of Fitzroy McLean and Freddie Birkenhead in the 1973 collection Evelyn Waugh and his World, and the biography and memoir of Chrstopher Sykes as they relate to Waugh’s service in Yugoslavia. It is a pity that Dr Hickson collected these writings before he was able to compare them with the script of Happy Warriors on the same subject. That production continues for two more weeks at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre in Highgate. See previous posts.

Another blogger, Erich Wagner, has posted a brief article in voegelinview.com on why the humor of Waugh’s novel Scoop still makes him laugh out loud today. Here’s an excerpt:

…Waugh could sketch personality in a line or two and had an ear for different voices (a rather rare quality in contemporary fiction).  […] Various courageous Europeans, in the seventies of the last century, came to Ishmaelia, or near it, furnished with suitable equipment of cuckoo clocks, phonographs, opera hats, draft-treaties and flags of the nations which they had been obliged to leave. They came as mission­aries, ambassadors, tradesmen, prospectors, natural scientists. None returned. They were eaten, every one of them; some raw, others stewed and seasoned – according to local usage and the calendar (for the better sort of Ishmaelites have been Christian for many centuries and will not publicly eat human flesh, uncooked, in Lent, without special and costly dispensation from their bishop). [. . .] On this reading, I was surprised to see in Dr. Benito, the Director of the Ishmaeli Press Bureau, an evocation of a currently prominent American Politician.


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