Bastille Day Roundup

Architectural Review has reposted its June 1930 article by Evelyn Waugh about the buildings of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Some of this was included in Waugh’s  contemporaneous travel book Labels, but the magazine article appears to be more fully illustrated. Here’s an excerpt:

…Only a small part has as yet been built of the great Church of the Holy Family, which was to have been Gaudi’s supreme achievement, and unless some eccentric millionaire is moved to interpose in the near future, in spite of the great sums that have already been squandered upon it, the project will have to be abandoned. The vast undertaking was begun with very small funds and relied entirely upon voluntary contributions for its progress. The fact that it has got as advanced as it has, is a testimony to the great enthusiasm it has aroused among the people of the country, but enthusiasm and contributions have dwindled during the last twenty years, until only ten men are regularly employed, most of their time being taken up in repairing the damage caused to the fabric by its exposure. There are already menacing cracks in the masonry; immense sums would be required to finish the building on the scale in which it was planned, and the portions already constructed fatally compromise any attempt at modification. It seems to me certain that it will always remain a ruin, and a highly dangerous one, unless the towers are removed before they fall down.

All that is finished at present is the crypt, a part of the cloisters, the south door, two of the towers, and part of the east wall. There is a model in the crypt of the finished building which was shown in Paris at one of the International Exhibitions, but did not attract any great international support. The church is to be circular with a straight, gabled south front forming a tangent touching the circumference, not as might be supposed at its centre, but at a point some way to the east of the main door; beyond the high altar is to be a baptistery with a very high pointed dome, fretted and presumably glazed…

Work continues on the structure to this day but Waugh’s photos can be used to show the  progress.

Time magazine posts an article by Sarah Watling on the poll taken by writer Nancy Cunard in 1937 to determine British writers’ positions on the ongoing Spanish Civil War. This article was apparently inspired by similar attempts today to make a similar determination on the Russo-Ukraine conflict. Here’s the article’s opening:

The first thing I ever knew about the poet, journalist, and activist Nancy Cunard was a commanding broadsheet she dispatched in the summer of 1937, containing the challenge that, decades later, would spark the questions that prompted my book, Tomorrow Perhaps the Future. She addressed it to many of the most important writers of Britain and Ireland, sometimes sending multiple copies with the idea that they’d pass them on. It made its way to George Bernard Shaw and Evelyn Waugh; to T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett; to Rebecca West, Rose Macaulay and the Woolfs; to Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice and W. H. Auden. It reached Aldous Huxley and George Orwell; Vita Sackville-West and Sylvia Pankhurst. It went to Vera Brittain and H. G. Wells; to Rosamond Lehmann and her brother, John; to Sylvia Townsend Warner and her partner, Valentine Ackland.

Nancy printed her missive in black and red and addressed it, broadly and grandly, to ‘the Writers and Poets of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales’. Large type announced: THE QUESTION. Along the left-hand side of the sheet was added, vertically: SPAIN

The Question (though technically there were two) appeared perfectly straightforward. ‘Are you for, or against, the legal Government and the People of Republican Spain? Are you for, or against, Franco and Fascism?’

Nancy assured her writers that she would publish the answers they chose to send, by which she meant: you are asked to state a position publicly. As far as she was concerned, not taking a position was impossible.

Most of the writers opposed Franco and several replies are mentioned. I did not see any further mention of Waugh’s reply, but he did send one and it is included in his collected journalism:

I know Spain only as a tourist and reader of the newspapers. I am no more impressed by the ‘legality’ of the Valencia [leftist] government than are British Communists by the legality of the Crown, Lords and Commons. I believe it was a bad government, rapidly deteriorating. If I were a Spaniard I should be fighting for General Franco. As an Englishman I am not in the predicament of choosing between two evils. I am not a Fascist nor shall I become one unless it were the only alternative to Marxism. It is mischievous to suggest that such a choice is imminent (EAR, 187).

The reply along with others appeared in the Left Review.

–Neil Tennant, member and co-songwriter for the band called the Pet Shop Boys, was interviewed recently by Mojo magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Smash Hits [a magazine for which Tennant wrote] was renowned for asking pop stars curious questions. Remember any good ones?

My famous question was “Does your mother play golf?” Which I thought was an interesting question because it revealed a lot about your family background. My mother did play golf and got narked by the question because she thought it was a dig at her. Chris Heath always asked, “What colour is Tuesday?” A good question because I’m immediately going to say “Green”. The influence Smash Hits had on me was, I wasn’t afraid of humour. I also got it from My Fair Lady, and before that when I was in HMS Pinafore at school. That you can be serious but you can still be funny. One of my favourite writers, Evelyn Waugh, is like that. It’s funny, but it’s really bitter, quite nasty, actually.

Evelyn Waugh and chart pop is a slightly unusual combination. Did you think you were doing something new?

We thought very much that we had the secret of modern pop, the pop that came after Duran Duran, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which was going to combine hip hop, hi-energy, electro with emotion. And with songs about real life.

–Waugh’s opposition to reform of the Roman Catholic liturgy is mentioned in two sites. One is in the religious journal Crisis Magazine where Robert Garnett posts a summary of Waugh’s position. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1962, the Second Vatican Council opened with great fanfare, amidst rejoicing at the prospect of the Church opening up to the modern world, a twentieth-century updating (the famous aggiornamento). The Council would, many fondly hoped, usher in a second Pentecost, almost a Second Coming.

Waugh was unimpressed. The glib optimism was fatuous, the presumption repellent. As the Council convened that autumn, his reservations appeared in the British weekly The Spectator, in an essay titled “The Same Again, Please.”

The other is an anonymous posting in the liturgical weblog rorate-caeli which concludes with this:

…As in Waugh’s day, there is a temptation for Catholics today to lose hope that the attempt to “rob the Church of poetry, mystery and dignity” will never end. But there is indeed reason to hope. The first is that Waugh’s letters are even more relevant today than they were when he wrote them. Waugh was not a crank or reactionary, as he might have supposed, for caring. Instead, he expressed concerns that have proved timeless.
The next is that, unlike in the mid-1960s, there is no longer a default assumption of Catholics that whatever the Pope or the bishops do is the work of the Holy Spirit. Waugh assumed that Catholics would simply go along with the changes– but they did not. Five years after Waugh’s death, Paul VI granted the Agatha Christie indult to all Catholics in England, allowing the celebration of the traditional liturgy. Today, beautiful pre-1955 Holy Week liturgies proliferate around the world. Against all efforts to stamp it out, traditional Catholicism has survived and thrived. It will continue to do so.
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