–The current issue of The Critic magazine has the latest effort to revive the works of novelist Henry Green. This is in an article entitled “An off-kilter visionary” by Alexander Larman. The article prominently cites Waugh’s on and off relationship with Green and his works. Here’s an excerpt:
…Waugh came across Green when they were Oxford contemporaries. He pronounced his friend “lean, dark and singular”. Both were hard-drinking, clubbable men with literary ambitions, but Waugh — a lifelong parvenu who both admired and detested those wealthier and grander than he was — recognised the presence of an extraordinary talent almost as soon as they met. He was consumed by both jealousy and admiration.
Green — or Henry Yorke, as he had been christened — had been educated in the conventional upper-class fashion. He had been schoolfriends at Eton with Anthony Powell (another lifelong admirer). It was at Eton that he began what would become his first novel, Blindness, a semi-autobiographical study of a young man, John Haye, who is accidentally blinded while attending the prestigious public school Noat. Although slight in comparison to what would come later, it already displayed Green’s effortless facility for combining witty social satire with poetic flair.
It was published in 1926, when Green was 21, and Waugh wrote to him through gritted teeth to say “at the risk of appearing officious, I am impelled to write to you and tell you how very much I like it. It is extraordinary to me that anyone of our generation could have written so fine a book, and at Oxford of all places.”
His praise was not unconditional, however. He sneered at his friend’s nom de plume, saying privately, “From motives inscrutable to his friends, the author of Living chooses to publish his work under a pseudonym of peculiar drabness.”…
Larman goes on to discuss several of Green’s books, including his second, entitled Living, published in 1929 and reviewed by Waugh in Vogue’s September issue. Waugh praised that one twice, the second time about a year later in The Graphic where he may have become the first literary critic to describe a Green novel as “neglected masterpiece.” In later years, as Green’s books began appearing more regularly in the 1940s, Waugh thought them unreadable and feared Green was losing his mind. They fell out socially as well, due to Green’s alcoholism, according to Larman. The article is worth a look, but it oddly omits a reference to the one book of Green’s which might help attract readership. This is Caught, written and published during the war, in which Green describes his experiences as an ARP warden. It is in my opinion the most readable of Green’s novels, but perhaps for that reason Larman may have considered it unrepresentative. Here’s a link.
–The performance of a Dutch stage adaptation of Brideshead Revisited has been announced for the upcoming Holland Festival. It will be performed at the theatre De Sloot in Amsterdam from 5 June to 1 July. For details see this link.
–A Turkish language edition of Vile Bodies is being promoted in the press. Here is an edited translation (by Google) of an excerpt:
Adí Bedenler (Vile Bodies) is a novel written by Evelyn Waugh. One of the most extreme gentlemen of 20th century European literature, is the unique Adam Fenwick-Symes, whose memoirs … were seized at the customs and burned by customs officers; he could not marry his fiancee Nina as a result of the tragicomic events that happened to him. …
The book is translated into Turkish by Gözde Poplar. It was published earlier this year by Everest.
–An article by Dwight Longenecker appears on the religious-philosophical website The Imaginative Conservative. This compares the character Guy Crouchback in Waugh’s Sword of Honour to the prophet Hosea. Here are the concluding paragraphs:
…Guy Crouchback, like the prophet Hosea, has married a glamorous, but promiscuous woman. Guy’s father “old Crouchback” comments drily, “poor Guy. He married a bad ‘un.” Indeed. Virginia’s various liaisons have proved very dangerous. Her unfaithfulness wrecked both her and Guy’s life. She crouches back to him, and his willingness to have her back despite her dalliances elevates him to the level of heroism that his wartime experiences never granted him. In doing so, he echoes the heroism of Hosea, who pictures God’s own faithfulness to his promiscuous people. The true sword of honor is not military glory, but Guy’s noble action of forgiveness.
The underlying moral plot illuminates the tedium of the rest of Waugh’s story. Guy’s relationship with Virginia runs through the story like a dark thread, and we see what Waugh has been up to. Beneath the outward plot—in this case the Second World War—the plot line of the destiny of human souls is playing out, and the sheer absurdity and futility of the surface plot is emphasized by the intensity and importance of Guy’s affaire de coeur.
“This is what matters,” Waugh is telling us. Whether the allies win the war, whether the British are humiliated, or the Nazis defeated is secondary. Guy’s forgiveness of Virginia and his acceptance of the scoundrel Trimmer’s son as his own is what matters. As Old Crouchback would say, “Quantitative judgements don’t apply.”
–The entertainment industry website The Wrap has reposted a list of notable Peter O’Toole performances that was probably originally published in connection with his death in 2013. Here is one of interest to our readers:
“Bright Young Things” (2003): Stephen Fry‘s brilliantly acrid adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s “Vile Bodies” has no shortage of British eccentrics, but they all take a back seat to O’Toole’s Colonel Blount, who seems to be operating in a dimension entirely his own. Dotty and circumloquacious, the good colonel pops up in only a few scenes of the film, but O’Toole’s wonderfully whacked-out performance stays in the memory.
Thinking back, I would have to agree, since O’Toole’s performance is the only thing I can remember from the film that was released in Waugh’s centenary year.