Pre-Valentine Roundup

–The Spanish newspaper El Periodico announces the issuance of a Catalan translation of Brideshead Revisited;

Sebastian and Charles burst into the kitchen, in love like penguins, to share in the bombshell news that Viena Edicions has just published in Catalan the mythical novel by Evelyn Waugh, in a new translation by Xavier Pàmies. The boys, of course, wanted to celebrate with strawberries freshly picked from the garden and Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey white wine, because the idle and novelty classes are a bunch of ‘ snobs ‘ . What difference does it make? After all, dear reader , the best thing in life is a youthful summer trapped in the amber of memory. ‘Et in Arcadia ego’.

How is it possible to feel nostalgic for a time that was never lived, for a landscape never trodden on? That is what the witchcraft of good literature does. ‘Brideshead Revisited’ [Retorno a Brideshead] highlights the love between men, the love between men and women, the centrality of beauty in the existence of troubled humans. Is there something else? ‘ ‘ What else ‘ ‘ ?, As they say in the coffee ad.

Translated by Google. The name of the wine looks a bit peculiar.  Perhaps it’s just the context.

The Spectator offers a list of “Books to Cheer Your Up” or in other words “purely entertaining books” to help divert minds during the extended pandemic. This is compiled by Alexander Larman and contains this one by Evelyn Waugh:

Fans of Evelyn Waugh’s unique, uproarious worldview – and I would definitely count myself as one – might find no purer expression of his talent than in his first novel, Decline and Fall, written and published while he was still in his twenties. Following the adventures of the hapless young Paul Pennyfeather, from university to teaching to white slavery to prison, and beyond, it is a novel without a shred of sentiment, but all the funnier for it. As with many novels on this list, it features an indelible cast of supporting characters, from the long-suffering headmaster Dr Fagan to the all-knowing butler Philbrick, but the greatest of them all is the deeply unsavoury schoolmaster Captain Grimes, forever finding himself ‘in the soup’ for some misdemeanour or other, and relishing the amoral freedom that ‘not being a gentleman’ gives him.

Others on the list include Lucky Jim, Pursuit of Love and Patrick Hamilton’s Slaves of Solitude.

–The Daily Telegraph includes a novel by Evelyn Waugh on its recommended reading for Valentine’s Day. This is A Handful of Dust. This seems an odd choice but here’s the explanation written by Telegraph reporter Iona McLaren:

It’s a truism that love can drive you mad, but few vignettes bring this home with such a bleak punch as the famous scene in Waugh’s 1934 novel when Lady Brenda Last, who is having a supposedly casual fling with John Beaver, a younger man she knows to be second-rate, hears over the telephone that “John” has died in an accident. When she realises that it’s her infant son, not Beaver, who has died, Brenda says: “John… John Andrew… I… Oh, thank God.” Love conquers all, but here it’s not a good thing. 

Another satirical novel  recommended is Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils. Its proponent is Orlando Bird who agrees that it:

might sound like a surefire V-Day downer. But look beyond the (admittedly hilarious) gripes about Welsh signage and the grotesqueries of ageing and you’ll find a deeply tender novel that celebrates love in its least glamorous forms – and blows Amis’s cover. He was an old romantic after all. 

–The Irish Examiner asked TV political news presenter Katie Hannon from RTÉ to list her “cultural touchstones”. These are mostly TV productions but there is also this by Evelyn Waugh:

Scoop and the news cycle

Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is fantastic.

It was written in the 1930s. It’s about an insignificant journalist who writes the nature notes for a newspaper.

He gets mistaken for a more famous cousin who is a writer and he gets dispatched to cover a war in Africa.

It’s the account of how this works out. He accidentally has a major scoop.

It’s very clever about how these things are done, how wars are covered, the madness of it all. It’s a great book. If you ever find it in a second-hand bookshop, pick it up.

–Columnist Nicholas Lezard writing in the New Statesman is also reminded of Waugh’s novel about journalists. His column is entitled “A reader accuses me of banality”:

The word that arrested me in my online fisticuffs was “banal”. “Crap” I can kind of live with, as it is pretty much implied by the word “banal”. Now, although I am reasonably confident that my critic never actually read past the headline, the word “banal” stung. I prefer “mundane”, as its etymological roots are from the Latin mundus (the world, and also “clean, elegant”); but then, in the end, everything is banal. In Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, the writer John Courteney Boot meets a precocious child who keeps using the word:

“You seem to find everything banal.”

“It is a new word whose correct use I have only lately learnt,” said Josephine with dignity. “I find it applies to nearly everything.”

UPDATE (12 February 2021): Additional information is added from the Daily Telegraph.


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