Waugh Abroad: Firbank and Scoop

Two foreign language journals have recently reviewed works of Waugh. The first is in the Italian religious website Radio Spada. In that essay, Luca Fumagalli reviews an early essay by Waugh on Ronald Firbank that appeared in a 1929 issue of Life and Letters. According to Fumagalli, Firbank is the :

…spiritual son of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, the acclaimed author of the apocalyptic The Master of the World, [and] was one of those tightrope walkers of Edwardian, homosexual and unfriendly Catholic decadence, whose works were rediscovered only after his disappearance, when the critics began to see in their hurricane of  camp madness an ideal bridge between the fin de siècle season and the modernist avant-garde.

Even Waugh cannot help but open his article by underlining how Firbank’s books, although influenced by the Beardsley of Sotto il monte [Under the Hill] or by the works of Baron Corvo, did not fail to influence the works of contemporaries such as Harold Acton, Carl Van Vechten, William Gerhardie and Ernest Hemingway. […]

However, Firbank’s novels are by no means perfect, quite the opposite. Especially those of his youth, which in addition to lingering a little too long on the descriptions of the beautiful young people who peep in there, [are guilty] of “obscurity and stupidity”. On the [other hand], in those of maturity, above all The Flower Beneath The Foot, Prancing Nigger and Cardinal Pirelli , where the narrative technique reaches its apex, “the darkness disappears to leave room for a radiant clarity and much of the alleged nonsense, when well expressed, turns out to be something exquisitely significant.” […]

Waugh particularly admired Firbank’s devious and allusive use of language, among other things by endowing his characters with sympathetically absurd names. More generally, if the dialogues, constructed through the juxtaposition of words and rhetorical constructs derived from the conversations in vogue at the time, [they] seem to lead nowhere, [and] “little by little the reader becomes aware that a casual reference on one page is linked to some particular inflection or phrase in another, until a plot emerges; usually a plot so outrageous that he himself is wary of his own deductions. “The story thus takes shape little by little,”a touch and a retreat”, and the reader initially finds himself wallowing in a sea of ​​inconsistencies, lost and nauseated by a story that seems to want to go nowhere. […]

Conceiving such epiphanies is Firbank’s trademark, the main lesson that Waugh and other writers of his generation have learned from him.

The Google translation in this case is a bit of a challenge to read in English. And many of the quotes are translated into Italian from Waugh’s original. No attempt has been made to correct those. The original Waugh essay is available in both A Little Order (p. 77) and EAR (p. 56).

The second is a review of the Spanish-language edition of Scoop, which is published in Spain as ¡Noticia bomba! Here’s a translation of the opening paragraph in the Spanish paper Diario Sanitario:

Today we rescue from the heavy rubble of literary oblivion a comic narrative gem from 1938. Scoop is, above all … , a hilarious parody of tabloid journalism, a satire in capital letters, a splendid comedy with no pretensions other than affording an enjoyable reading. English humor, fine, pure, critical, scathing, sparkling, acid, at times malicious, boxed in its almost three hundred pages, is what serves us in such a work by Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), one of the best British satirical writers. […] Over time, it has become a reflection of a journalism from another era, distant, evocative, irretrievable, a journalism of cigars, telegraphs, typewriters and alcohol, lots of alcohol…


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