–RAI Radio 3 has posted a podcast relating to the new Italian translation of A Little Learning. Here is a translation of the introduction:
Let’s not expect the usual self-glorification of the middle-aged writer: Waugh takes us first to get to know his family tree full of temper and bizarre types, then moves on to sketch a vaguely hostile father and a vaguely hen mother, and finally here is the young Evelyn, unsure of his literary vocation and so malevolent towards himself as to border on self-defamation. As Mario Fortunato writes in the note that introduces the volume, “reality for Waugh is nothing but our imagination reduced to a minimum”.
I think translator Mario Fortunato may take part in the podcast. Here’s a link to the recording on RAI’s website in case you understand Italian.
–The book is reviewed by Alessandra Stoppini on SoloLibri.net. Here is an excerpt translated by Google with a few edits:
…In the winter between 1962 and ’63, at the age of sixty, Evelyn Waugh settled in Menton, in the South of France, with the intention of starting the first of the three volumes that should have composed his autobiography. But the writing did not continue, because there was the problem of having to tell real events, describe people who are still alive. The names, facts, circumstances, feelings that had to be examined and narrated were those of real life, even if in the recent past, and there was the risk of hurting the sensitivity of someone, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance. Menton’s atmosphere and indeed a considerable propensity for drinking, smoking and sleeping pills had not helped the writing, so Waugh had gone home.
In 1964, finally, the first volume of the autobiography was published, completed by Waugh in a few months.[…] If in the first part of the volume the author reconstructs a significant part of his family tree, describing his parents wisely, in the second part, instead, the fictional side so dear to the author appears. In fact, in these pages, which stop at the year 1924, the names of many real characters are changed, […] The names change, but their characters and their bizarre and over the top personalities maybe not…
—JSTOR Daily has published an article entitled “Sick Party!” by Naomi Milthorpe and Eliza Murphy. The theme is described as follows: “The idea that partying can make you sick is not new. But the party as an occasion for illness or disease—as an occasion not generally in the service of public health—has specific valences in history and culture.”
After discussing parties in the works of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and F Scott Fitzgerald, they come to those of Evelyn Waugh. Here’s an excerpt:
The parties in Evelyn Waugh’s satiric novel Vile Bodies (1930) are definitely irresponsible, but hardly pleasurable at all: as we’ve written elsewhere, they waste time, effort, money, and occasionally life. As Marius Hentea writes, Vile Bodies was one of a host of party novels published during the twenties and thirties, and follows a group of young socialites based on the historical Bright Young People of post-war London. In a letter to fellow author Henry Green, Waugh wrote that Vile Bodies “seems to shrivel up & rot internally,” hinting that the novel’s parties aren’t all frolics and fizz.
Instead, they are physically nauseating and morally depleting. In the opening chapter, a voyage across the English Channel is likened to “one’s first parties, […] being sick with other people singing.” In a later scene, a gossip columnist gate-crashes a party in a bid for the latest scoop, masking his identity with a fake beard. The mask is a symptom of the “bogus” modernity which, as the literary scholar Brooke Allen comments, Waugh skewers throughout the novel. Gaining entry is a matter of life or death: “if I miss this party,” one character, Lord Balcairn, says “I may as well put my head into a gas-oven.” When he’s thrown out for being recognized, he follows through with his plan. Instead of offering a venue for play and renewal, the party drives him to suicide.
Only slightly less grim is the novel’s most infamous party scene, in which a party is held in a tethered airship (an inherently unstable setting, with echoes of warfare that would not have been lost on Waugh’s audience). While the party’s odd venue is a novelty, the guests in attendance are “all the same faces.” As the protagonist, Adam, enters the airship, one of the first things he sees is a woman “breathing heavily; evidently she felt unwell.” […] Moving from an airship to an illegal nightclub, then to an acquaintance’s bedsit, Adam concludes his evening by listening to his host vomit next door.
The article concludes with a discussion of how the recent novel entitled Severance by Ling Ma fits into this oeuvre (if that’s what it is).
–An interview of Evelyn Waugh’s grand daughter Daisy Waugh, also a novelist, is posted on YouTube. The interviewer is another novelist, Jessica Fellowes. The interview begins with a discussion of Daisy’s family life and how it has shaped her career. This mainly involves what she learned from her father Auberon Waugh but also what it is like for a writer to live and work in the shadow of a grand father with a reputation such as that of Evelyn Waugh. The latter half of the 25 minute program becomes more of a dialogue than an interview as both writers describe how they approach the tasks of writing a book and then getting it published. Daisy’s next book is Phone for the Fish Knives, out in June in the UK, and she is at work on or has just finished another one to be called Guy Woake’s Word Diary (or something to that effect–she points out that she and her publisher do not always agree on a title). Jessica has been writing a series called The Mitford Murders, the latest of which was The Mitford Trial, published in November.
The interview is part of a series called “Tuesday Connection” produced and posted by Forum. Here’s a link which was kindly provided by Dave Lull. You will be asked to subscribe to watch the entire program, but there is no charge. It is worth the effort to subscribe.