New French Edition of POMF Reviewed

The Paris newspaper Liberation has published a detailed review of the new French edition of Put Out Out More Flags (Hissez le grand pavois; literally “Hoist the great bulwark”). This is by Philippe Garnier who begins by explaining that the new edition is part of the effort of Waugh’s French publisher to make all of the novels available in their Pocket Pavilions  collection:

When Black Mischief (Diablerie) in October and Gilbert Pinfold (2020) appear, the work will be done, a more laudable endeavor than it may seem. Because if Waugh is known in France for some of his works (often not the best, like the Cher Disparu [The Loved One], or even Brideshead, the author’s work is far from mainstream; nor is it appreciated at its true value, that is to say, as the best comic novelist of his century (even more than his master PG Wodehouse), and certainly as the best practitioner of the English language. Who would not be cut off at least one little finger for describing Hitler as “a creature of conifers”?

The review continues at some length to provide examples to French speakers of Waugh’s humor from POMF  and explains the derivation of several of the characters. He also places this novel in the framework of Waugh’s military career in WWII and goes on to give a further biographical sketch of the lengthy term of service that remained after POMF was written in 1941. It explains that, until he was stationed in Yugoslavia with Randolph Churchill, not much happened, although this gave him time to write Brideshead Revisited.

Unfortunately, the reviewer apparently relies on early biographies (probably those by Christopher Sykes and Martin Stannard) for information about Waugh’s military record and

[…] the problem he posed to his successive superiors: by his physical courage bordering on unconsciousness, he was a constant rebuke to his more cautious fellow officers. By his inadmissible conduct towards his subordinates, he had quickly become unemployable everywhere, so unpopular that one of his commanders had  once to post a guard at night to prevent misfortune to Captain Waugh, at the hands of his own men.

The review concludes with a discussion of Waugh’s posting to Yugoslavia:

After Crete, […] there will be mostly permissions. [Same word in French original; probably means leave.] Waugh had become like one of the Connolly children: the commanders were fanning him like scratchy hair. He was able to write Brideshead Revisited, and to become rich, by means of added holidays and brazen privileges. There was only one officer more hated by the army: the dedicatee of this novel. Randolph Churchill was not only drunk, loud and impossible, he was also untouchable. The High Command in Cairo thought it best to send the two undesirables to Yugoslavia as “liaison officers” with Tito and his followers.

The reviewer might have benefitted from consulting the recent book by Donat Gallagher (In the Picture) or the recent biography by Phillip Eade for a more balanced and accurate description of Waugh’s career in the Army. The translation is by Google with a few edits.

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