Roundup: Baby Jungman, Proust, Japan and Zeppelins

–Mark McGinness has written an obituary of Desmond Guinness for the Australian literary magazine Quadrant. In this he adds another Waugh connection not mentioned in the English and Irish papers. See previous post. After his marriage to his first wife Marie-Gabrielle von Urach ended in the 1960s Desmond married Penny Cuthbertson in 1973 who brought another Waugh connection:

…Penny was the only daughter of Waugh’s […] great love, Teresa (‘Baby’) Jungman. She and elder sister Zita were the very last of the Bright Young Things, and having sold their house in 1990, applied for rooms in a convent. They were presented with a questionnaire. The first question was: “Are you incontinent?” They had no idea what this meant, but imagined it must be a good thing and answered: “Yes, very.” Both were refused admission. In 1995 they joined Desmond and Penny, settling in a cottage built in the grounds of Leixlip and lived there happily until they were 102.

–In a recent article posted by Standpoint magazine, Christopher Prendergast considers the English reception of Marcel Proust’s works over the years. It has  been a problematic subject, and Evelyn Waugh was a contributor to the controversy:

…Where the reception of Proust is concerned, the English have form. It would be a truth pretty well universally acknowledged that À la recherche du temps perdu is a “masterpiece” were, for example, it not for the undiluted nonsense of Evelyn Waugh. In a letter to John Betjeman, he wrote of Proust, “the chap was plain barmy”. His barminess, Waugh maintained, consisted in being constitutionally unable or wilfully refusing to narrate things in the right order. In another letter, joshing with Nancy Mitford, Waugh casts the barmy chap as a lamebrain simpleton: “I am reading Proust for the first time—in English of course—and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time.” Proust suffered from all manner of ailments, but dyschronometria certainly wasn’t one of them. The challenge here lies in swallowing one’s astonishment at the number of times Brideshead Revisited has been described as “Proustian” without throwing up.

The article goes on to note that there were English writers such as Waugh’s friends Anthony Powell and Cyril Connolly who admired Proust and at one time there were even those who thought reading his long novel might be good for one’s mental health. The article continues with a fairly detailed discussion of last year’s BBC radio adaptation of Proust’s novel featuring actors such as Simon Russell Beale and Derek Jacobi in leading roles. It concludes on a lighter note, reminding us of the contribution to Proust’s English critical heritage by Monty Python’s Flying Circus; this was, of course, the “All-England Summarize Proust Competition.” Thanks to Dave Lull for sending a link to the Standpoint article.

–The first volume of Waugh’s war trilogy, Men at Arms has been published in a Japanese translation. The translator is Dr Taichi Koyama who received an English Literature PhD at the University of Kent, where he wrote his dissertation on Anthony Powell, which was later published in English. The translation of Waugh’s trilogy is based on the text of Sword of Honour and will be annotated to show, inter alia, substantive changes from the individual volumes. Several of Waugh’s other works are also available in Japanese translations: these include Brideshead Revisited, The Loved One, Pinfold, A Handful of Dust, Short Stories and, most recently, Scoop.

The Japanese version of Men at Arms is published by Ex Libris Classics in a handsome hardback edition. We can only hope that there will be reviews in the Japanese language media, and, if any of our readers see these, we would appreciate it if you could forward a link by commenting as provided below.

–A military history website (WeaponsandWarfare.com) has posted an article about the German bombing of London during WWI. This began in May 1915 and the bombs were delivered by Zeppelin airships. Among the descriptions of these attacks quoted in the article are those by Cynthia Asquith, Arnold Bennett and Evelyn Waugh who was then a child of about 12 and wrote this in his schoolboy diary:

“Alec [his elder brother] woke me up in the night at about 11 o‘clock saying the zeps had come. We came downstairs and the special constable was rushing about yelling ‘Lights out’ and telling us the zeppelin was right overhead. We heard two bombs and then the Parliament Hill guns were going and the zep went away in their smoke cloud to do some baby-killing elsewhere.” [CWEW, v. 30, Precocious Waughs, p. 77 (Diary, 8 Sept 1915)].

Recalling these events almost fifty years later, the now famous author recalled that the raids did not seem dangerous:

“No bomb fell within a mile of us, but the alarms were agreeable occasions when I was brought down from bed and regaled with an uncovenanted picnic. I was quite unconscious of danger, which was indeed negligible. On summer nights we sat in the garden [. . .] On a splendid occasion I saw one brought down, sinking very slowly in brilliant flame, and joined those who were cheering in the road outside.” [CWEW, v. 19, A Little Learning, p. 78.]

–The ITV network will tonight begin the much awaited drama series The Singapore Grip. This is based on JG Farrell’s 1979 novel and has been compared in many announcements to the works of Evelyn Waugh. Christopher Hampton has adapted it for TV and is quoted in the Daily Telegraph:

Hampton knew Farrell back when the latter was a struggling writer living in a bedsit in Notting Hill in the 1970s, and considers his death to have robbed English literature of the natural successor to Evelyn Waugh. “He has that ruefulness, and beady eye for the faults and foibles of the people he’s writing about,” says Hampton, although “he’s more compassionate than Waugh.”

Radio Times also makes this comparison based on an interview with Luke Treadaway who appears in the production:

As with Waugh’s greatest fiction, the six-part series moves from satire to romance to deep gnawing tragedy. “There’s something quite karmic about these characters, who have gone around the world taking what they want from the local people, suddenly realising that they can’t actually escape,” says Treadaway.

The first of six episodes will be broadcast on ITV tonight (13 September 2020) at 9pm on ITV. It will be available thereafter to stream on itvPlayer. A UK internet connection is required. Release information for other markets is unavailable at present.

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