New French Edition of Waugh Wartime Diary

Later this week an edition of Waugh’s wartime diaries in French translation will be published. This is entitled Journal de guerre (1939-1945). It is translated by Julia Mayle and published by Les Belles Lettres. Boldly featured on the bottom of the cover page is the word “Inédit” which means in this context “not previously published”.

The description of the book provided by the publisher is translated below (with a few edits):

“At each stage of the disaster … , I was in a prominent place. ”

In his diary, unpublished in France, Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), reveals with ferocious irony the backstage of the British army during the Second World War. He will also draw from the peculiar war that he described in his famous romantic Sword of Honor trilogy, with Men in Arms, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender.

At 36, it was not easy for the Catholic writer to serve as an officer in the British army. But war or not, he remains similarly contemptuous of the universe that surrounds him. The training of the early days? Numerous degrading games designed to keep us in a good mood but which, in reality, go against the natural dignity of man. Sent from one unit to another, he takes part in various and unusual military operations. First, in 1940, the abortive Dakar expedition alongside the Free French led by General de Gaulle. Then the catastrophic evacuation of Crete by the British army. Finally, there is a long mission in the Balkans to Tito and his Partisans, with the improbable Randolph Churchill, son of the Prime Minister.  In the course of this,  the two men survive the crash of their plane, one of the many episodes of a tumultuous relationship. Between the [overseas assignments], there are dinners shared with the London establishment in the capital crushed by bombs, described with the same cynicism.

During these five years of war, Waugh continues, day after day, his insolent criticism of  British social life and one of its proudest jewels, the Army.

The length of the book is 280 pages and it is for sale on for €23.50. It is probably taken from “Part 5. The Wartime Diaries 1939-1945” of the 1976 London edition of the Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, pp 457-620. Whether it includes additional material that had been omitted from the previous English language edition is not stated.


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