Columbus Day Roundup

–The Financial Times recently conducted an extensive interview of the new editor of the Daily Mail, Geordie Greig. Here’s the opening:

There is one thing that a journalist can count on, said a character in Evelyn Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop: “popularity”. The public always has “a smile and the best of everything for the gentlemen of the press”. How times changed, particularly for the Daily Mail. At the turn of the century, the tabloid became the most influential newspaper in Britain, but also the most divisive — thanks to angry headlines such as “Crush the Saboteurs”, “Over 1m Illegals are in Britain” and “Is this a case of bias against men?” […] Then last year, after a quarter-century in charge, the Mail’s fearsome Brexiter editor Paul Dacre was shoved upstairs — replaced by Geordie Greig, a debonair Remainer famed for his literary contacts. It was as if the Brexit party had chosen Amber Rudd as leader.

After a lengthy discussion of how and why Greig is taking the Daily Mail news coverage and editorial policy in a different direction from his predecessor, the article concludes: “Geordie Greig wants popularity and profit. Even in Scoop, they didn’t aspire to that.”

–Last week’s Sunday Times printed an interview of comedian and writer Alexei Sayle. As he has explained in previous interviews, Evelyn Waugh is his favorite author:

I’m a big fan of Evelyn Waugh, especially the Sword of Honour trilogy. My parents were communists and in terms of arts they only liked voices that confirmed their own world view. So I’ve always really liked authors who were diametrically opposed to that. Someone like Waugh really hates the working class, but I think he really understands human beings. It’s more interesting to read an author who comes from a really different place to you.

In answer to another question about what book Sayle wished he’d written, he returned to Waugh:

I’d love to have written Waugh’s early satires. In terms of satirical fiction he touched on a lot of things nobody had written about before, especially incest and homosexuality. He’s got a cynical attitude towards government and power structures.

–Several papers published stories commemorating the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s novel 1984. The website LuxuryLondon discusses what bits of the city that Orwell fictionalized in his novel are still standing:

… there are still traces in existence of the London that Orwell knew and which figured in his imaginings for the future of the city should a totalitarian system ever manifest itself. Looking like one of Moscow’s Stalin-era skyscrapers, the imposing high-rise Senate House, which stands in the heart of Bloomsbury, was described by Evelyn Waugh in Put Out More Flags as ‘the vast bulk of London University insulting the autumnal sky’. Still the administrative centre of the University of London, the building was commandeered during the Second World War by the government as the HQ of the Ministry of Information.[…] Although the physical immensity of the building is perfectly captured by Orwell in his fictionalised Ministry of Truth version, there is little to suggest that the writer found his dealings with the real life Senate House as tedious and manipulative as Smith did with its fictional counterpart.

KipperCentral.com, a website sponsored by the UKIP party, asks how 1984 might read if it were written today. They take a particular interest in issues such as immigration as the likely source of concern in a rewritten text rather than the totalitarian regimes which Orwell saw as a threat:

Orwell failed to foresee that religious belief would prove such a strong force in the future — an oversight recognised by Evelyn Waugh, who lived near Orwell’s sanatorium and who visited him in 1949. ‘What makes your version of the future spurious to me is the disappearance of the church,’ Waugh wrote to him after reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. ‘Disregard all the supernatural implications if you like, but you must admit its unique character as a social and historical institution. I believe it is inextinguishable’. Although the Anglican Church has since lost much of its cultural prominence, another faith is taking its place as an inextinguishable force in contemporary Britain with the projected Muslim population expected to increase from 4.6% of the UK population in 2010 to 8.2 % by 2030.

See previous post.

–The Italian religious website Radio Spada has an article about the conversion to Roman Catholicism of the 20th Century poet Edith Sitwell. It also mentions Evelyn Waugh’s role in that event:

In 20th century British Catholic literature we witnessed a strange phenomenon, namely that of avant-garde authors, incorrigible iconoclasts, capable, however, of revealing the force of tradition with exceptional vigor, writing pages full of contrasting sensations that result in a fascinating and unusual “dynamism of Truth” (the definition is by the scholar Joseph Pearce). An excellent example of this trend, in addition to Evelyn Waugh, the unsurpassed author of Brideshead Revisited, is his friend Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), a key figure in the evolution of English poetry – religious and otherwise – during the twentieth century. […] Edith Sitwell was finally welcomed into the Church of Rome in August 1955, a year after she was awarded […] the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. Her godfather was Evelyn Waugh – who described her that day “wrapped in black as an infant of the sixteenth century” – while among the guests the actor Alec Guinness stood out, also destined a few months later to be converted to a “papist ” (as Catholics were pejoratively called by the Anglicans).

Translation is by Google with some edits.

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