Roundup: A Handful of Quotes

–Writing in the London Review of Books about the Iranian armed drones being used by Russia against Ukraine, James Meek is reminded of similar weapons employed by the Nazis against Britain in WWII after the Normandy invasion. These were the V-1 and V-2 rockets.  Here’s an excerpt in which Waugh is quoted:

Those early Nazi drones, launched from mainland Europe, killed thousands of people, caused heavy destruction in towns and cities already partly ruined by conventional bombing, and badly hurt morale in London, where V-1s and V-2 rockets destroyed or damaged more than a million houses. Hundreds of thousands of children were evacuated. The uncanny remoteness of drone warfare, brought home in the 2000s by footage of suspected terrorists and harmless civilians being blown up by US drones whose pilots were safe a continent away, was already present in wartime London. [Philip] Ziegler quotes Evelyn Waugh: ‘No enemy was risking his life up there. It was as impersonal as a plague, as though the city was infested with enormous, venomous insects.’

The quote is from Unconditional Surrender (London, 1961, p. 245).

–The European Conservative has posted an essay (“Rediscovering Waugh“) by James Bradshaw discussing Waugh’s major works. It is quite well written and worth reading even by those quite familiar with the subject. Here are the opening paragraphs:

In terms of the breadth of his popularity, Evelyn Waugh has probably not fared as well as some of his literary contemporaries who achieved distinction in the mid-20th century. This may not have surprised him, given how much time he spent bemoaning the societal changes which were accelerating in the decades before his death in 1966. These changes included the decline of the aristocratic way of life, the elevation of politics and secular political ideologies to a position of pre-eminence, and, above all else, the decline of the Christian religion which alone had given hope to an author who was permanently plagued by melancholy and misanthropy.

Occasional revivals in popularity due to adaptations of his work—most notably, that which followed the release of the glorious ITV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981—will always continue. But there is far more to Waugh than first meets the eye, and no matter how great the gulf between his era and ours, readers who delve into his work can discover not only a supremely gifted literary craftsman, but an extraordinary soul and intellect as well.

Harvard Medicine, the journal of the Harvard Medical School, has posted a list of favorite books recommended by its graduates. A 1995 alumnus posted this:

…Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, which I have read perhaps ten times in my life. This quotation has always stuck with me: “To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.”

–The religious journal Aleteia has an essay by Fr Peter John Cameron OP entitled “Sin and something better“. It opens with this:

…In God’s loving providence, even sin plays a redemptive role in leveling us so that we finally come face to face with what really matters in life. As St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good.”

Recall that poignant scene from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited in which a character, living in adultery, goes through a meltdown:

“Living in sin, with sin, by sin, for sin, every hour, every day, year in, year out. Waking up with sin in the morning, bathing it, dressing it, clipping diamonds to it. ‘Poor Julia,’ they say, ‘she can’t go out. She’s got to take care of her little, mad sin.’”

Quote from Book Three, Chapter III, The Fountain. (Rev Ed 1960).

–The Literary Hub has convened a panel of four writers and academics to discuss the topic: “The Most Important Poem of the 20th Century: On T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” at 100“. Here’s a quote from a contribution by David Barnes:

…I sometimes wonder if The Waste Land hasn’t had more of an influence on the modern novel.

Evelyn Waugh named A Handful of Dust (1934) after a line from the poem, of course; Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) contains a number of conscious echoes of The Waste Land in its descriptions of the New York cityscape. And in post-war writers, that influence continued: Sam Selvon’s novel of alienated Caribbean immigrants, The Lonely Londoners (1956) begins with a description of the foggy “unrealness” of the London scene.

Jeanette Winterson’s novels are steeped in quotations from Eliot. The Waste Land has seeped into culture as a moving set of referents to describe urban alienation, fracture, cultural collapse. It also has a striking ability, inherent in its form I suppose, to speak across cultures. Jahan mentioned the impact of the text on Caribbean poets like Walcott and Braithwaite; and although it’s a poem focused on London, the apex of political and economic power, its language and structure seem also to destabilise, decentre.

The lines from the poem are:

“…I will show you something different from either/Your shadow at morning striding behind you/Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;/I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

–The Majorca Daily Bulletin has an article recalling the 2000 filming of Channel 4’s adaptation of Sword of Honour on that island:

This was a production based on Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy and loosely paralleled Waugh’s experiences during the Second World War. In Mallorca, it was the production of that year, 2000, with locations chosen to represent Egypt, Italy and Yugoslavia.

Valldemossa became an Italian town, the quarry in Porreres was a camp in Egypt; camels were used for authenticity. Cala S’Almunia and Cala Torta were chosen for landings and for escapes from enemy fire; Selva was a village full of partisans. Even the Castell de Sant Carles in Palma was a location. In the film it was a military barracks. Filming would normally be difficult there because it is a Spanish military place. However, and as Nofre Moya explains: “When we told them what the story was about, they loved it. Everything was easy.”






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