Waugh’s Orwellian Dystopia

The Orwell Society has posted an interesting essay on the friendship of Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell with special reference to how Waugh’s 1953 novella Love Among the Ruins was intended as a response to Orwell’s 1948 novel 1984. This is entitled “Orwell in the Waugh-zone” and is written by Richard Lance Keeble who is a previous chairman of The Orwell Society and has written several books as well as articles on Orwell and his works. The essay begins with this:

Throughout his writing career, George Orwell maintained a constant critique of Roman Catholics. There was one major exception: Evelyn Waugh. This essay explores the extraordinary Orwell-Waugh relationship, the study Orwell was planning on Waugh in the months immediately before he died, their meetings and correspondence – and the much-neglected witty, dystopian novella, Love Among the Ruins which Waugh composed in the early 1950s as a sort of tribute to the author of the recently published Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The essay is well written and annotated throughout but perhaps the most interesting and original contribution is the analysis of how Waugh specifically responded to elements of 1984 in his later novella. These responses were actually outlined in a letter Waugh sent to Orwell thanking him for a copy of 1984:

In a letter to Orwell of 17 July 1949, Waugh says he has read Nineteen Eighty-Four with great admiration. But he suggests in his treatment of Winston’s soul ‘the metaphysic are wrong’ and that the novel is spurious because it fails to acknowledge the existence of the Church. Perhaps reflecting on the scenes towards the end of the novel in which Winston is tortured in Room 101 by O’Brien, Waugh’s concludes that ‘men who love a crucified God need never think of torture as all-powerful’ (ibid: 157). [Letters, p. 302]

Keeble searches the text of Love Among the Ruins to show how Waugh fleshed out these issues in his own dystopian novel, something David Lebedoff did not do in his 2008 book The Same Man: Orwell and Waugh.

Waugh’s novella is collected in his Complete Short Stories.

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