New Dutch Edition of Brideshead

A new Dutch edition of Brideshead Revisited will be published next week. The Dutch title is Terugkeer naar Brideshead (literally “Return to Brideshead”) and will be published by Prometheus in Amsterdam. This is the 10th edition of a Dutch version. Here is an excerpt from a translation of the review by Rudi Muelemans in the Belgian paper De Standaard:

It’s doubtful that a creative writing student would get good marks with a paper like  Brideshead Revisited. The teacher would certainly point out some structural shortcomings. For example, the most fascinating character, Sebastian, disappears from the picture after a few chapters and in the third part the main character, Charles, suddenly appears to have a wife and children out of nowhere. The author of  Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, was aware of these flaws based on his experience with the writing process.

Waugh had gone into military service at the outbreak of World War II. When he parachuted out of a plane during a training flight in December 1943, he made a somewhat rough landing and broke his fibula. He got leave. During that time, lasting until June 1944, he wrote Brideshead Revisited. Although largely set in the 1920s and 1930s, it is a souvenir of the Second World War.

Waugh described the novel’s theme as the action of divine grace on a group of distinct but closely related characters. He had joined the Catholic Church a few years earlier and, after the satirical works Decline and fall and A handful of dust , it was time for his great Catholic novel. He subtitled the book The Sacred and Profane  Memories of Captain Charles Ryder . Those memories are linked to a specific place:  Brideshead castle…

Waugh’s leave was originally granted for a few weeks to recuperate from his injury but was later extended several times to allow him to write the book. The review continues with a summary of the plot and ends with this:

The epilogue of the book takes us back to the beginning. Charles sees how the troops have damaged Brideshead. Evil tongues sometimes claim that during the war the British army caused more damage to the manors than Hitler’s bombings. As his men settle in, Charles visits the chapel and says a prayer.

At this point in the novel, I consider that Sebastian’s disappearance from the narrative may not be Waugh’s fault after all. It ensures that the reader also feels the pressing loss. Charles realizes that the best time of his life was the period of his friendship with Sebastian. The only thing we possess is the past.

The first Dutch translation was by E. van Andel and was published in 1947 by De Bezige Bij in Amsterdam. A new translation by Luc Viljingh was issued in 2001, and Prometheus republished that version in 2008. This information is based on The translation of the review is by Google with a few edits.


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