Juneteenth Roundup

–A recent article in the Times newspaper criticizes plans for reopening some schools after lockdown with what it sees as a confusing “blend” of in-school live and at-home online teaching. Alex Massie opens the article with a quote from Evelyn Waugh:

Sent down from Oxford for an unfortunate episode of indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather, the protagonist in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, discovers that his employment prospects are on the bleak side of disappointing. Teaching appears to be all that is available to him. At interview, he discovers that schools are classed into four grades: “Leading School, First-rate School, Good School and School” and “Frankly, School is pretty bad”.

To which we may now add a further category: “Blended School” and note, with still greater remorse, that frankly Blended School is pretty much certain to be worse than “School”. This, however, is what Scotland’s children will have to endure when schools return for the new academic year in August…

–A Danish e-newspaper Information.dk has posted an article commemorating the 75th anniversary of Brideshead Revisited. This is written by Jakob Illeborg and entitled “Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited continues to be particularly pervasive and inhumanly English”. Here’s the introduction and opening paragraphs:

Beautifully written, thick with nostalgia, steeped in class distinction, outlawed homoeroticism and religion – and a good place to start if trying to understand Brexit. This month, the novel  ‘Brideshead Revisited’ is 75 years old.

Many Danes, born in the last five decades of the old millennium, want a relationship with Brideshead Revisited. For most people, it’s because of the iconic 1981 television series starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as the noble enfant terrible Sebastian Flyte. The series is beautifully filmed with the huge Castle Howard as the backdrop for the fictional manor Brideshead, which, as the title indicates, plays a crucial role in the novel.

Brideshead provides a historical insight into the British upstairs and downstairs tradition. As you know, the fascination of British class society continues to be great, and Brideshead is a kind of precursor to the television series Downton Abbey’s worldwide success. However, the latter is primarily a glossy narrative, while Brideshead is both more dangerous and infinitely much more complex.

The computer translation is quite high quality but the remainder of the story has been placed behind a paywall. Perhaps one of our Danish readers can provide a summary.

–Australian artist Franko Franko has posted an offer for a painting he calls “Taxed Painting”.  This was, as he describes it:

Painted on pages from the book ‘When the Going Was Good’ by Evelyn Waugh… oranges, white, cream and black with a dash of pink, blue and green… These beautiful pieces (“Bookclubs” as I call them) have a classy or subject relative vibe to them created by the subject matter of the base. They are either produced on (mostly) old vintage or destructed books (I have assembled a large collection) or vintage comics….classic, yet totally modern. Pop based, often with a with a touch of realism rather than pure Pop art styling.

A full color copy of the painting is posted on the dealers website.

–Ephraim Hardcastle in his Daily Mail gossip column included this item referring to an incident from 60 years ago:

ABOUT to go bust with debts of £20,000 in 1960, the London Library was delighted to get manuscripts from TS Eliot, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh with the Queen gifting a book on Benvenuto Cellini, the Renaissance sculptor, from Queen Victoria’s Library. The Queen Mother sent a silver wine cooler. Did the royal toper think the library was a front for a bar?

The idea was not to have the London Library deposit the manuscripts but sell them on to provide operating capital. Waugh gave them the manuscript of Scott-King’s Modern Europe which they sold at auction for £160. EM Forster sent in the manuscript of A Passage to India which sold for £6500 and TS Eliot copied out the text of The Waste Land which brought £2800. Letters, p. 545, n5.

–An article in the neo-fascist Italian language paper Il Primato Nazionale addresses the Italian Fascist government’s policy in 193o’s Abyssinia where one of its first actions was to abolish the slavery that had been practiced under the regime of Hailie Selassie. The article by Eugenio Palazzini quotes Evelyn Waugh’s book Waugh in Abyssinia as a source:

Before then, as Evelyn Waugh writes in his sublime reportage Waugh In Abyssinia, “Slavery and slave raiding were universal practice; justice, when executed at all, was accompanied by torture and mutilation in a degree known nowhere else in the world; […] disease was rampant” [p. 32]. In all this, the Abyssinians, Waugh writes, “boasted of their audacity and the inferiority over all the other breeds, white, black, yellow and brown”. And instead the Italians, those “racist” bad guys, had another idea: “Treating an empire as a place that had to be fertilized, cultivated and made more beautiful, instead of a place from which things could be taken away, a place to be plundered and depopulated “.

The text above is taken from the English translation that has been published on the website news1.news. The quoted text has been retranslated into English from an Italian version except for the first quote which I tracked down to the original and substituted for the retranslation.

–Finally, the website of the literary journal Kenyon Review has posted an article by Aatif Rashid explaining how and why he came to admire Brideshead Revisited despite being a non-religious former Muslim. Here’s an extract:

As a declared atheist who’d abandoned my own religion (Islam) in my youth, I wasn’t at all taken in by this Catholic plotline. […] I didn’t want to believe that Charles would ever convert to Catholicism, because it would have been a total rebuke of my own personal journey away from Islam.

I think, though, that this tension is where the novel gets its power: in disagreeing so vehemently with Waugh’s ultimate moral message, I was having a profound emotional experience from a novel. Art had forced me to reckon with my own spiritual development, my own atheism. Even if I didn’t agree with Waugh’s ultimate Catholicism, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that the novel was brilliant. 

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