Easter Roundup

–The Australian religious journal Catholic Weekly has posted an essay entitled “The Easter yearning”.  This is by Karl Schmude and begins with a discussion of the many ways Easter is misunderstood today. Among the examples is this from Evelyn Waugh:

It may seem that our age has produced a secular version of the Resurrection, treating the deceased person as if he were still physically alive. Evelyn Waugh, in his novel The Loved One, savagely satirises the presentation of death in American culture. He captures, in the cosmetician Aimee Thanatogenous, our illusions about death, and the tendency to satisfy spiritual longings with material deceits. […] Aimee’s work in the mortuary promotes the illusion of material survival – as a substitute for bodily resurrection and spiritual immortality.

After presenting his catalogue of error, the essayist turns for his conclusion to Georges Bernanos who wrote Diary of a Country Priest. That was a book also admired by Waugh who reviewed it for Night and Day in 1937 where he described it as a “really fine book.” EAR, p. 209-10.

See also UPDATE below.

–A booksblogger on JacquiWine’s Journal has recently finished Waugh’s A Handful of Dust and liked what she read:

Waugh uses dialogue to great effect in this novel, frequently moving the narrative along through a series of conversations – sometimes face-face, other times on the phone. The style is pin-sharp and pithy […] A Handful of Dust is an entertaining yet bittersweet romp, a story shot through with Waugh’s characteristically caustic wit. And yet there is an undercurrent of despair here too, a sense of hopelessness […] This is a tonally sophisticated novel with more to say than might appear at first sight.

The Guardian also addresses the film adaptation of this novel as part of its ranking,  in order of merit, of all the films in which Judi Dench appears:

8. A Handful of Dust (1988)
Dench is as mean and sharp as a carpet tack in this version of the Evelyn Waugh novel: she is the grasping mother of John Beaver, the slippery social climber who has an affair with Kristin Scott Thomas’s Brenda Last. It is this Mrs Beaver who is the driving force for John’s greedy demand for money in the divorce settlement.

It is worth noting that the adaptation of Handful was produced and directed by the same team that made the 1981 TV film adaptation of Brideshead Revisited: Derek Granger and Charles Sturridge. The number 1 ranking of Dench films goes to Notes on a Scandal (2006)

–A drinks blog (Master of Malt) in an article discussing its cocktail of the week called Martiki takes up the subject of the liqueur called kümmel, which is one of the cocktail’s ingredients. This somewhat forgotten liqueur is described in the article:

Kümmel gets its peculiar taste from caraway seeds along with cumin, fennel and other spices. […] Despite its Baltic origins, kümmel used to be immensely popular among the British upper classes. There are mentions of it in Evelyn Waugh’s works. But the only places you will see kümmel drunk today are golf clubs and old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs.

According to a Google Books search, kümmel is mentioned in at least four of Waugh’s novels: Vile Bodies, Black Mischief, Put Out More Flags (p. 67) and Officers and Gentlemen (p. 195).

–A religious weblog called The Virtue Blog has posted a podcast in which two scholars discuss Brideshead Revisited. Here’s a description of this episode:

In episode 10 of the Sacred and Profane Love podcast, host Jennifer A. Frey [Asst Prof of Philosophy at University of South Carolina] has a  conversation with scholar Paul Mankowski, SJ, about Evelyn Waugh’s popular novel, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. They discuss Charles Ryder’s experiences of love, freedom, grace, and redemption as he becomes erotically drawn into the rarefied world of Lord Sebastian and Lady Julia Flyte.

–A Catalan-language digital newspaper El Nacional.cat, based in Barcelona, has posted a review of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s 1978 book on Ethiopia The Emperor, now published in Catalan. The review explains that Kapuscinski was familiar with the country as well as Africa in general when he returned shortly after the 1974 coup that overthrew the Haile Selassie regime. Waugh’s writings on the country are also introduced into the discussion:

The mirror of Evelyn Waugh
One of the primordial works of journalistic literature [about Ethiopia] in the 1930s was Remote People by Evelyn Waugh, a work in which this English writer explained his attendance at the lavish coronation festivities of Haile Selassie as Negus, King of Kings. He did it with great literary talent and with a great sense of humor, but also with great doses of racism, classism and ethnocentrism. The emperor of Kapuściński is, to a certain extent, icing on the story of Waugh. While the Englishman wrote about the beginning of the reign of Selassie, the Pole explains the evolution and the end. But while Waugh was always distant towards Africans, the Pole questions the Ethiopians and is interested in their interpretations. He interviews the courtiers and neither ridicules nor questions them, but reflects their positions. In spite of everything, in the few reflections of the journalist himself, [Kapuscinski] clearly leaves his sympathy towards the military coup participants. […]

The translation is by Google with a few edits.

–A Poland-based weblog (“Warszawa Jeziorki”) has posted an article about the strained correspondence between Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman in the late 1940s where Waugh tried to bully Betjeman into converting to Roman Catholicism. The article refers to the discussion in vol. 2 of Bevis Hillier’s biography: John Betjeman–New Fame, New Love where both sides of their conversation (as well as some interjections from John’s wife Penelope) can be found.   The blogger (Michael Dembinski) is reminded of the sort of debate that rages today between Englishmen on the question of EU membership:

But who was the Leaver and who the Remainer? Betjeman didn’t like ‘abroad’. He felt uncomfortable there, the natives didn’t speak English and the food tasted funny. Waugh was far more cosmopolitan, enjoyed foreign travel and promoted a supranational church. He was concerned about the fate of Roman Catholics abandoned, as he saw it, to Stalin at the end of WW2. Betjeman was more practical, concerned with the fate of his parishioners in Uffington should he and his wife renounce Anglicanism. The church there, wrote Betjeman to Waugh, was the village’s “only bulwark against complete paganism”. Betjeman bridled at Waugh’s suggestion that he chose Anglicanism for aesthetic reasons, saying that his relationship with religion was “a stern struggle”. I rather suspect that had they been alive today, both men, born in Edwardian England, would have been mildly in favour of Brexit. But then perhaps Waugh might have been tempted to stay in the EU with Roman Catholic countries like France, Italy, Spain and Poland.

Hillier writes (p. 307) that the two writers’ friendship was “somehow never the same again after the epistolary battering and Penelope’s conversion.” He had earlier explained that Waugh played no role in convincing Penelope to convert, but Betjeman may not have seen it that way.

–Finally, for those readers living in or near the Twin Cities, a conference has been announced for Sunday, 5 May on the topic “The Fact of the Cross: St. Helena & the Claim of Christ’s Victory”. This will be held in Minneapolis at the Church of the Holy Cross. Among the papers listed is this: Fr. Byron Hagan, Leaving Home for Lands Unknown: Evelyn Waugh’s HelenaThis will be presented at 2pm in the opening session. Details of the conference are available here.

UPDATE (25 April 2019): A reader has kindly submitted an aditional link for the above roundup. This is the inclusion in an Easter article by Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Register of a reference to Brideshead Revisited. This relates to the final scene in which Charles Ryder describes his reactions to the Roman Catholic priest Fr McKay  performing last rites for Lord Marchmain. Thanks to Peter Comerford for providing this link.



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