Others in Abyssinia

Duncan McLaren has posted a new chapter (“In Search of Scoop”) on his website relating to Waugh’s second trip to Abyssinia in 1935. This is based on the book Waugh in Abyssinia but is supplemented by the writings of three other London-based correspondents who accompanied Waugh around the countryside and stayed in the same Addis guesthouse during their visits–Partrick Balfour (Evening Standard), Stuart Emeny (News Chronicle) and WF Deedes (Morning Star):

Deedes knew Stuart Emeny from working on stories with him in England. To some extent they teamed up, with Patrick Balfour and Waugh making another pair. Waugh found Deedes and Emeny’s remorseless hunt for non-existent stories faintly contemptible, but to an extent they all had to live together, so he passed it off as good-natured banter.

In another sense, it’s Deedes and Waugh that make a pair, in that they chose to write intimately about what they found in Abyssinia. The essays of both Emeny and Balfour found in Abyssinian Stop Press are much less personal, perhaps because of their remit. Balfour’s essay ‘Fiasco in Addis Ababa’ omits mention of Evelyn Waugh altogether, while Emeny’s mentions Waugh up-front but omits to mention him thereafter. About the ill-timed expedition they shared to to Harar and Jijiga, Balfour confines himself to a historical and geographical overview […] The real contribution of At War with Waugh, by W.F. Deedes, is the insight it gives into Waugh’s character and behaviour in Abyssinia in 1935. Deedes observes that Waugh provoked a feeling of resentment against his more professional colleagues. However, Waugh was looked up to as a senior figure because of his travel experience and his books.

Much of what McLaren writes will be new to those unfamiliar with the writings of these other correspondents. This is particularly true of the side trips Waugh describes to Harar/Jigiga and Dessye. Some will no doubt have read Deedes’ book which was published   in 2003, but the book to which the others contributed has been long out of print.

As usual McLaren provides photos as well as maps from these other books where they illustrate the subject in his text. In one case, he goes so far as to identify Waugh in a group photo in Addis Ababa where no mention of his presence is made in the source book. He also provides comparisons of passages from Waugh in Abyssinia with those in the other books about the same event. And as in the past, he imagines a few conversations among these four. It makes for enjoyable reading even for those familiar with the story.

McLaren explains that he prepared this chapter as part of his effort to swot up on the Abyssinian travels in advance of his discussion of Scoop with Martin Stannard at the Chipping Camden Literary Festival next month (Friday, 10 May 2019). Details here.


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