Brideshead at the Mille Miglia

Columnist and humorist writing as Don Alphonso reports in the weblog of the German paper Der Welt about his visit to this year’s Mille Miglia Storica event in Italy. This is an annual vintage car rally based on an auto race that took place between 1927 and 1957 over a 1500 km course between Brescia and Rome. It was discontinued after a series of accidents and later, beginning in 1977, converted into a less stressful rally of cars built before 1957. Several of this year’s entries are pictured in the story as it appears in the welt.com website.

The article is entitled “Der indiskrete Charme der lauten Motoren” (The indiscrete charm of the loud engines) and begins with an extended and somewhat mistifying reference to Brideshead Revisited. The story opens with Charles Ryder’s recall of his youth at the time he is preparing for the invasion of Normandy (translation by Google with minor edits):

…This youth, full of brittle friendships, cautious, complex or even downright spoiled characters, makes up the charm of the narrative, as none of the characters is uncomfortable or evil on the surface while their existence lurches into the abyss. There is the deeply innocent anecdote about the outing that Charles Ryder and his friend Sebastian Flyte are making along with the teddy bear Aloysius.

And yesterday, when I was in Cortona, with fantastic views of the border region between Tuscany and Umbria, with the blue shimmering Lake Trasimeno on the horizon and the chattering beasts of the Mille Miglia in front of me, I thought myself in many a picture to look [as] Charles and Sebastian must also have looked at the time when they went to Oxford in the 20s…

Not everyone appreciates Evelyn Waugh’s book. I know some who think all the characters who were born into their immense privileges and who also have so much charm and talent, should start doing something with their lives at least starting on page 100. Instead, people chatter, talk a little bit backwards, small events cause catastrophes that do not really have to be, and God is also kind and does not do anybody any good until circumstances force people to make decisions that are not always beautiful. Some may even wait for a punishment for the relaxation [auch auf ein Strafgericht für die Erschlaffung], but what is actually remembered is the provocatively displayed carelessness that covers every failure with charm. Charles and Sebastian are not good. But you would like to travel with them in the springtime.

Now, that’s always the case with the charm and the childish hyperbole that often accumulates in its slipstream. Charm is learned and not “the good”, charm is commonly used to hide a lack of virtues. The truly virtuous, who only know the smell of curd soap and cabbage wraps and fear sins, would let themselves be dragged into the debauchery of other people, often go to the wall and think that whoever is so charming can not really be a bad person. Of course they are right, but at the same time they also realize that “not bad” and charm together can not cover up the blatant lack of substantial values.

And so the narrative continues over several pages, somewhat defensively justifying the columnist’s falling under the charm of the vintage car rally. He seems to be addressing an audience which he feels opposes such events but is trying to convince himself (if not necessarily them) that it is nonetheless acceptable to allow oneself to be charmed by them. Perhaps one needs to know more about the columnist (who has appeared in these pages before) or about German humor to appreciate more fully his most recent Wavian references. His real name is Rainer Meyer and he has also written a novel and published collections of his other writings.

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Roundup: From Ocean Liners to The Fiddlers Elbow

The V&A is running an exhibit on Ocean Liners, which remains open until 17 June. Rosemary Hill has written an article about it in the London Review of Books. She discusses the history of luxury liners back to the prewar age that preceded the “modern” style that was introduced after WWI and reached its apogee in the 1930s:

Most modern of all was the Orion, designed by Brian O’Rorke for the Orient Line in 1934. O’Rorke declared war on ‘plush and chintz’, instead using Bakelite, chrome and fabrics by Marion Dorn. The Orion was ‘the first British ship to truly adopt modernist principles’ and was probably what Evelyn Waugh had in mind in Brideshead Revisited: ‘Yards and yards of biscuit-coloured wood … that had been bent round corners … blotting paper carpet’ all ‘designed perhaps by a sanitary engineer’.

The U & Non-U story continues in the “N.B.” column of the TLS. In the latest installment the  columnist “J, C.” or James Campbell discovers that the series has had a noticeable impact on the prices for used copies of Nancy Mitford’s book Noblesse Oblige. The series began when Campbell found a “perambulatory” copy of a 1959 Penguin at a book stall for £3. When a friend asked him if he could find aother copy, Campbell looked online and the best he could do was a Penguin 1960 second printing for £25. Other copies on ABE varied from £34.99 up to £400 depending on the edition. This would suggest that, contrary to what many believe, the power of the press continues to exert itself. Thanks to a reader for passing this along. Maybe a new “print-on-demand” or digital edition will suggest itself to some canny publishing house.

The Leicestershire Times reports that a panel at Loughborough University will address the subject of “Art Portraiture & Biography.” This will consist of Alastair Adams, Dr Barbara Cooke and Sarah Parker dicsussing how the artist or writer tries to capture the essence of the individual. Dr Cooke teaches at Loughborough and is Co-Execuive Editor of the CWEW. Her edition of Waugh’s autobiography was among the first Collected Works volumes published and more recently she has written a book entitled Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford published by the Bodleian Library. Alastair Adams is an artist and is a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters while Sarah Parker also teaches at Loughborough, with a special subject of women’s poetry. Admission is free. Here are the details:

Wed 6 June 2018
6pm – 7.30pm
Leonard Dixon Studio, Martin Hall
Loughborough University, LE11 3TU

Dr Cooke’s book Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford is reviewed by Lauren de Lisle in the latest issue of The Tablet (you may need to register to read a copy):

The elephant in the room, which Barbara Cooke addresses in the first few pages, is that Waugh only spent two and a half years at Oxford. And yet, spiritually, he never left – it was “the place he inhabited, literally, during his student years and, artistically, for the rest of his life”. The first half of the book looks at how Waugh depicted Oxford in his works. The second, much stronger – and brought to life by Amy Dodd’s beautiful, characterful illustrations – is a kind of literary tour of the city, describing places that held particular resonance for Waugh.

The review notes that Dr Cooke extends her consideration of Waugh’s Oxford writings beyond Brideshead to include those in his autobiography. While de Lisle has a few reservations relating to Cooke’s writing, she concludes that “this is still a fascinating exploration of the effect which man and city had on each other.”

From Spain comes news that actor/musician Javier Garruchaga and his Mondragon Orchestra have released a 42-track recording called ¡Noticia Bomba!  This release is on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the orchestra. During that period they have made several recordings and Garruchaga has appeared in numerous films, TV programs and films. He explains in a press report on RTVE.es (a Spanish entertainment guide): “It is also a tribute to Evelyn Waugh’s humorous novel of the 30s, which is very appropriate for these lively and sensational times in which we live.” He is referring to Scoop which was published in Spanish as ¡Noticia Bomba! (Translation by Google.)

Finally, in the British music website of the Camden NW5 venue The Fiddlers Elbow, a newly formed band based in Bath and self-described as a “Piano Punk Trio playing cool music for uncool people” is seeking fans with special qualifications:

The Wedlocks are warm-hearted, sensitive and up for a good time. They’re looking for someone who shares their love of post war literature and Shostakovich’s Jazz efforts. Must be hip enough to quote the works of Evelyn Waugh but not in a way that might prompt jealousy or self-doubt. Must also be ok with band bios being written in the form of lonely hearts ads.

They are scheduled at The Fiddlers Elbow on 20 May 2018.

 

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Tom Wolfe 1930-2018

American novelist, Tom Wolfe, died earlier this week. He will probably be best remembered for his innovative journalism of the 1960s, 70s and 80s but he also branched into fiction with a satirical novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, in 1989. Several of the articles relating to his passing mention that novel as well as his other writing in connection with the satirical tradition of Evelyn Waugh. The Catholic Herald posts online an article by William Cash it had recently published in its print edition. See earlier post. This is entitled “Tom Wolfe–the Evelyn Waugh of Wall Street”. Cash read Wolfe’s first two novels obsessively and used the first as a basis for his undergraduate Eng Lit thesis at Cambridge. He writes:

There are two things that people forget about Wolfe. First, judging himself by his contemporaries – who included John Updike and Norman Mailer – he was positively historic to be publishing his first novel at the ripe literary age of 56. Wolfe found this almost an embarrassment. … Wolfe’s skewering of the white plump meat of American capitalism came out just as Wall Street suffered the greatest single-day loss since the Crash of 1929. Bonfire was number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two months and sold more than 800,000 copies in hardcover. The phrase “Master of the Universe” came to sum up the aspirations of a generation of would-be Gordon Gekkos in the red-braces world of Wall Street in the late 1980s. Bonfire drew on a tradition of conservative satire harking back to Evelyn Waugh. Wolfe’s brand of politically incorrect social criticism remains so important in a world where the Left seems to have an ever-increasing cultural monopoly, from the theatre to the BBC, news, arts, film, publishing and, most blatantly, the well-manicured groves of academia.

Writing in the German paper Die Zeit, Jens Jessen says much the same thing (translation by Google with minor edits):

Tom Wolfe was an American writer who started out as a baseball player, ended up as a novelist and preferred to wear white or cream suits. Similar to Truman Capote, with whom he invented the New Journalism …, he liked to be invited to rich people, then turned ugly when writing about them. In that sense, he could also be described as the Evelyn Waugh of the United States, which would also appreciate the fact that he was like his British colleague a highly talented, but not perfect, good writer. … Like many other dandies in literary history, he was essentially a moralist, a deeply startled child. He needed the white suits to hide the bleeding heart. … In his hatred of modern architecture (From Bauhaus to Our House, 1981) he even showed populist features. But all in all we have reason to complain that Wolfe’s despair over the never-released, always-betrayed promises of modernity was profound.

Finally, the Daily Telegraph has an article by Ben Lawrence about the dearth of comic writing in the UK having caused the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction be placed on hold for the current year. Wolfe’s death is sadly noted in the context of a comment that, in the United States, the comic genre manages to continue to live on, if not exactly thrive. In a brief survey of comic fiction in England, casting back to its beginnings with Lawrence Sterne and Henry Fielding, Lawrence offers this observation on the generation that produced Wodehouse:

Near contemporaries [of Wodehouse] such as Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell  took the form to an even higher level (and in Waugh’s case brought a blackness never matched in humorous fiction), but it was the publication of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim in 1954 which changed the literary landscape for decades. This story of a young man’s wry existential crisis in provincial academia became a default setting for how British novelists should view the British world around them. Certainly there were pale imitations which followed in the wake of Lucky Jim, but writers such as Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark offered biting accounts of British mores, sometimes strange but always utterly unique.

 

 

 

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Waugh, Rex Whistler and the English Martyrs

Peter Hitchens has written an essay entitled “Latimer and Ridley Are Forgotten: A Protestant Understanding of England’s Martyrs.” This appears in the current issue of First Things, a nonsectarian religious journal. He argues that Roman Catholics have more effectively promoted their martyrs in the cause of their religion in England than has been the case with martyrs for the Anglican cause. His arguments are intended to put both sets of martyrdoms into a more balanced historic context.

In the course of his essay, he refers to a painting depicting Roman Catholic martyrs done by Rex Whistler. According to Hitchens, the Roman Catholics:

… needed a martyrs’ memorial. [Thomas] More and Fisher, like Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, were undeniably great and courageous Englishmen, and eloquent ones, too. One especially potent use of their memory can be found in St Wilfrid’s Chapel in the Brompton Oratory in London, perhaps the supreme headquarters of Catholic militancy in England. Above the altar of the English martyrs, in a side chapel of this majestic church, is a powerfully sinister and suggestively grim mural. It looks very old, but it was painted in 1938 by Rex Whistler (who is possibly the model for Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited). It depicts executions at Tyburn, London’s principal place for such things, and is flanked by idealized portraits of More and Fisher.

The execution scene is a masterpiece. The callous, lumpish crowd, backs turned on us, watches as several bodies dangle from a triangular gibbet. …  A strong impression of evil and cruelty comes out of the frame, as I am sure it is meant to do. I would not want an impressionable child to see it. It is one of the most powerful pieces of propaganda I have ever experienced. When I recently revisited it, I was astonished to find how small it actually is. I had remembered it as huge.

But it is not quite true. It does not make the point it seeks to make. More and Fisher died for political offenses at the hands of a Catholic coreligionist [Henry VIII] who believed in the Real Presence and other essentials of the unreformed faith until the day he died, excommunication or no excommunication. Nor did More and Fisher die amid the crowded squalor of Tyburn, on a gibbet or in the flames. They were beheaded, a swift and merciful death by the standards of the age, at Tower Hill. Whistler’s gruesome picture…refers to something entirely different.

This is said to be Whistler’s only painting of a religious subject. He was not a Roman Catholic. Waugh knew him through mutual friends such as Diana Cooper. Waugh also used Whistler’s drawings to illustrate his postwar pamphlet Wine in Peace and War and commented on his work in letters and essays. He is also the model for a minor character in Scoop. But so far as I am aware, Waugh never mentions this religious painting in the Brompton Oratory, although he was surely aware if it. It was painted only after Waugh wrote Edmund Campion in 1935, which also deals with the subject of martyrdom. According to Whistler’s biographers, the painting was stolen in 1983, but there are photos on the internet (although these may depict a restored copy). The biographies offer little by way explanation of how Whistler came by the commision to paint it.

 

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Early TV Adaptations: Vile Bodies and Put Out More Flags

IMDB recently updated the archival information in its database relating to two little-known BBC TV adaptations of Waugh’s works from 1970. These are Vile Bodies  and Put Out More Flags. Both were 90-minute productions on BBC2, but some archival information is still incomplete.

Vile Bodies (9 December 1970): adapted by John and Michael Ashe, directed by Alan Cooke; it was produced by the BBC but the name of the producer is unavailable. Only five cast members are listed (although your correspondent just submitted to IMDB updated information on that point from the BBC’s archives). Among those listed, the most notable is Vivian Pickles as Lottie Crump. The program was not reviewed in either The Times or Daily Telegraph but was reviewed by Thomas Gribble in the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter 5.1 (Spring 1971, pp. 5-6). According to Gribble, the production was difficult to follow because an industrial dispute with the electrical workers caused some scenes to be omitted or curtailed. This may explain why the London papers did not review it. Gribble thought the adaptation put more emphasis on the humor at the expense of the book’s underlying seriousness. He also noted that the most effective scene was Simon Balcairn’s last report to his paper.

Put Out More Flags (16 December 1970): name of adapter withheld by BBC due to contractual reasons, according to Sunday Telegraph (13 December 1970); directed by Mark Cullingham and produced by Mark Shivas for the BBC. The cast and crew list appear to be complete. It was reviewed by The Times (Stanley Reynolds) and the Daily Telegraph (Sean Day-Lewis) in their 17 December editions, as well as by Thomas Gribble in the EWN as noted above. The Times reviewer thought that the adaptation made good work of the comedy, praising especially the performance of Sheraton Blount as Marlene Connolly (which Mr Gribble also singled out for approval). Both also thought that the performance of Basil Seal by Anthony Valentine was weak and that the adaptation suffered from the lack of attention to characters such as Cedric Lyne and Alastair Tumpington. But both thought the production worked well over all. The Telegraph’s critic was less kind and thought the adaptation was playing up to those who were already familiar with the book:

All efforts were made toward letting the original jokes do the work and pulling any extra punches, or punch lines, that might have distracted. The result was a sluggish pace and an air of 1939-45 gloom, as faded as it was visually precise…[I]n this careful production, too many of the lines were spoken with an awed and therefore misplaced reverence.

The Times reviewer saw the two 1970 productions as a “little season” devoted to Waugh’s works and hoped for more.  These early TV dramatizations are notable because they came at was probably the lowest point of Waugh’s literary reputation, before the publication of his Diaries (1976) and Letters (1980), several biographies and the 1981 ITV/PBS broadcast of the Granada TV version of Brideshead Revisited. Whether copies of these productions  survive is not known. From Thomas Gribble’s description of Vile Bodies, they may have been live broadcasts. And if they were in color (which would probably have been the case in 1970), any tapes may have been wiped and reused after the agreed number of repeat broadcasts.

A later film adaptation of Vile Bodies by Steven Fry was released in 2003 under the title Bright Young Things.   The IMDB also records a 1939 BBC TV series called Table d’Hote in which one episode was entitled “Doubting Hall”. The information on this is sketchy but several characters listed also appear in Vile Bodies.  There was also a stage version of that novel in the early 1930s which Waugh mentions. But this 1970 BBC TV production may be the only film version of Put Out More Flags ever made.

During the period following Waugh’s death in 1966 up to the 1981 broadcast of the Granada Brideshead series on ITV, the BBC offered several other adaptations. Prior to the two in 1970, there was an adaptation by Giles Cooper of Sword of Honour in early 1967 covering three 90-minute episodes. Waugh himself played a minor role in that adaptation, meeting with the writers and offering comments on the scriptThis is listed on IMDB under Theatre 625 which was an ongoing series of BBC dramatic productions in which it was included. BFI has a copy of this adaptation which is available to view at several of its “Mediatheque” locations in the UK. There was also an adaptation of Waugh’s 1936 story “Winner Take All”, written by Peter Nichols and broadcast on 26 November 1968 as part of a BBC series of 14 independent dramas called The Jazz Age, which is where IMDB has it filed. And in 1972 there was a series of seven 30-minute episodes of Scoop. This was adapted by Barry Took, best known for his collaboration with Marty Feldman on the radio series Round the Horne. It broadcast on the BBC between 8 October and 19 November 1972, and the reviews in the Spectator and The Times were between negative and hesitant. IMDB comments that this one has apparently been lost, so it was presumably wiped.

During this same “post-Waugh/pre-Brideshead” period, London Weekend Television produced a one-off  53-minute adaptation of Waugh’s 1935 story “Mr Loveday’s Little Outing.” This was written by Willis Hall and directed by Donald McWhinnie (who also directed the BBC’s earlier Sword of Honour). It was broadcast on 1 June 1973 by ITV as part of a series of dramas called Between the Wars. There were also two film adaptations of Waugh’s works in this period: The Loved One (1965) and Decline and Fall (entitled Decline and Fall… of a Birdwatcher) in 1968, about both of which the less said, the better.

 

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Duncan McLaren in Grahamland

Duncan McLaren has added a new essay to his website. This is entitled “Evelyn Concluded or Ask Alastair” and is devoted exclusively to Alastair Graham and his on and off relationship with Evelyn Waugh in the 1920s and a bit of the 1930s. He uses effectively what little archival information is available about the elusive Alastair, relying heavily on Duncan Fallowell’s book How to Disappear and adding information and photos from a book by David N Thomas about Dylan Thomas’s life in New Quay.

As usual, McLaren adds comments from his previous writings and observations from his on-the-ground research in the locations he describes. In this case, he makes an extended visit to New Quay (where Graham lived out his final years in seclusion) and describes the setting as it exists today, illustrated with helpful and detailed photographs. He also offers discussions about Graham’s sister Jane, who may have contributed to the character of Cordelia in Brideshead, as well as his relations with poet Ewan Morgan (later Viscount Tredegar).

This is probably as close as we will ever get to a biography of Alastair Graham. It makes interesting and enjoyable reading for Waugh fans and may well encourage those newly introduced to McLaren’s work to spend a wet weekend going back over the other essays he has posted, as well as his book Evelyn!

While McLaren suggests this essay is “rounding out” his work, at least for the moment, one hopes that it will soon resume. It seems unlikely that he will be able to avoid having his curiosity pricked by some bit of Waviana others have overlooked or underestimated and take the time and effort to set matters straight. We look forward to the next installment.

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Waugh and Fake News

The Mexican newspaper Milenio, which is published in several editions in all the major Mexican cities, has printed a feature length article on Evelyn Waugh. This is by Danubio Torres Fierro and is entitled “Las fake news según Evelyn Waugh” (“Fake News According to Evelyn Waugh”). It appears in the newspaper’s weekly magazine, Laberinto (Labyrinth).

The article opens with a reference to Waugh’s 1939 essay “Well-Informed Circles–and How to Move in Them.” In this, according to Torres Fierro, Waugh spelled out the motivations and mechanics for the production of what is effectively fake news by journalists and others. After quoting several passages from Waugh’s essay, Torres Fierro

…comes to what matters in this article. It is not at all surprising that Waugh attacked with viciousness (and sarcasm) what he understood to be an unedefying and harmful act; often he himself put it to practice as a journalist, but above all always raised to the rank of a true writer, Waugh was mandated by supreme shelter in irony, and with it and from it to dedicate himself to not leave a puppet with a head [titere con cabeza] and liquidate the commonplace hypocrites.

Waugh’s article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar (London) in January 1939 and later that year in Vogue (New York). It is collected in Essays, Articles, and Reviews (p. 241). Torres Fierro gives the original publication date as 1956.

The second half of the article is devoted to what is effectively a review of Philip Eade’s recent biography of Waugh. This is not a Spanish translation but the US edition of the book. What Torres Fierro seems to find most fascinating is Waugh’s correspondence, as quoted in the biography. He cites several letters to other writers such as Nancy Mitford and Graham Greene. He describes Eade’s book as revealing

a real life…as it unfolds and grows, incorporates, registers and distorts the characters that were part of the environment of the creator and inhabited the landscape that framed it.

The review seems to be a favorable one (although not entirely accurate since he sees in it “three marriages and a long progeny”). It closes with some thoughts on what George Orwell might have written in his projected essay on Waugh and the impact of Waugh’s conversion to Catholicism on his political beliefs. Although full of opinionated enthusiasm for Waugh’s life and work, it is somewhat disappointing that Torres Fierro did not apply some of that to a brief consideration of Waugh’s book on Mexico, Robbery Under Law, which was written at about the same time as the essay “Well-Informed Circles” with which the article opens. This may be down to the fact that Eade’s biography spends only about 2 pages on that book.

The paper also prints Spanish translations of two letters of Waugh,  separately and without apparent comment, although this must be connected to the main article. One is an October 1961 latter to the editor of The Times about the issue of indexes in novels, and the other is a July 1947 letter to the editor of an Irish religious journal defending his Catholicism. Both are included in the collected Letters (1980).

The translation is by Google and is not, in this case, as good as it should be. But this may be due to some extent to the difficulty of conveying the vigorous and idiosyncratic style of the original Spanish into English.

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Patrick Leigh Fermor Enters the Canon

Dominic Green, writing in the Weekly Standard, discusses the career of Patrick Leigh Fermor. The article prominently features serveral points of contact with Evelyn Waugh, not least their service in WWII Crete (Waugh’s in retreat, Leigh Fermor’s in heroism) and their sharing of friendship and correspondence with Diana Cooper and Ann Fleming (and, he might have mentioned, Nancy Mitford). Green also subtly raises Leigh Fermor into the literary canon of 20c English literature by comparing his career with those of Waugh and Wodehouse:

How many English literary writers from the early 20th century remain genuinely popular? Wodehouse and Waugh, certainly. Maugham, though, is almost forgotten, and Conrad is more respected than read. Leigh Fermor produced six full-length books in his 96 years. … Though relatively small, this output suffices to confirm Leigh Fermor as the 20th century’s finest exponent of a genre that the English invented: travel writing. … When Wodehouse (born 1881) was confronted with the enormities of World War II, he persisted with his Edwardian fantasies and got himself into trouble accordingly. To Waugh (born 1903), the Nazi-Soviet Pact revealed the enemy “plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off . . . the Modern Age in arms.” When the Soviet Union changed from enemy to ally, Waugh knew that, one way or another, the Modern Age would win. Leigh Fermor was born in 1915. The precocious literary pedestrian was formed by a war that he did not expect to survive.

When Wodehouse was 23 years old, he wrote The Gold Bat (1904), a novel of boarding school pranks involving a miniature cricket bat. When Waugh was 23, he wrote “The Balance” (1926), an experimental story written as a film scenario. When Leigh Fermor was 25, in 1940, he trained as an Irish Guards officer, transferred to the Intelligence Corps, and sailed for Greece. “I had read somewhere that the average life of an infantry officer in the First World War was eight weeks, and I had no reason to think that the odds would be much better in the Second. So I thought I might as well die in a nice uniform.” By the time he was able to get out alive from the war, get out of uniform, and, his derring done, set out again from Britain and return to Greece, he was 31 years old.

Other points of contact between Waugh and Leigh Fermor include their marriages to women above their own class, their desire to be accepted by the upper classes through the exertion of their charm, and their choice of a writing venue in a small Chagford, Devon hotel. Some of these come together in this passage:

In 1944, when Leigh Fermor was in the Amari Valley, Evelyn Waugh, a veteran of the earlier Battle of Crete, retired to Chagford to write Brideshead Revisited. “I took you out to dinner to warn you of charm,” Waugh’s aesthete Anthony Blanche tells his social-climbing protagonist, Charles Ryder. “I warned you expressly and in great detail of the Flyte family. Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside of these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Charles, it has killed you.”

Green’s article goes on to explain that Leigh Fermor’s life and works have inspired the formation of the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society, and he files his report from their recent visit to Crete where they explored several sites of their namesake’s exploits during the war. He also discusses the publication of several posthumous works of Leigh Fermor including collected letters, memoirs and, not least, the final volume of the travel trilogy as well as a current exhibition at the British Museum featuring Leigh Fermor’s life in Greece and interaction there with two painters. The article concludes with this:

The further World War II recedes in time, the sharper the edges of its essential contours become. Patrick Leigh Fermor’s books and letters are strung across time’s abyss, skeins that still connect the English to themselves even as the rope runs out. He was one of the last Englishmen. This, and not his esoteric reworking of Greek Modernism, is what explains Leigh Fermor’s posthumous growth from popularity to eminence, from heroism to myth. …

Another unrelated report in the Powells Books weblog contains an interview of Christopher Buckley, novelist, essayist and son of William F Buckley. One of the questions evokes a passage just quoted by Green:

Offer a favorite sentence from another writer.
From memory, therefore perhaps not 100% accurate:

“I tried to warn you about English charm that night at Thame. It destroys everything. It destroys art. It destroys love. And now, my dear Charles, I g-greatly f-fear that it has destroyed you.” — Anthony Blanche to Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

And this was followed by another:

My Top Five Books
Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. I reread it at least once a year. Waugh himself said later in life that he thought it flawed (over-rich, over-ripe), but it never fails to pull me into its spell of golden, doomed youth. And the language is just caviar.

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Roundup: Eating with Waugh

The Daily Telegraph has a profile of the London fish restaurant Wilton’s on Jermyn Street in St James’s. It is to fish what Rules is to meat, and Waugh is associated with both of them. According to the Telegraph:

The St James’s restaurant, one of the oldest in London, will mark recently turning 275 with a commemorative plaque unveiled by Sir Nicholas Soames on May 10. Like many politicians, Sir Nicholas has been coming to Wiltons for years – “it must be 50 now,” he says – and like many regulars, including the royal ones, it was a taste he inherited. It was a “natural home from home” for his grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, “an oyster specialist and a huge fan of champagne.”… The private club feel was certainly appreciated by Princess Diana, who often lunched there, as did Lord Carrington, Henry Kissinger and Evelyn Waugh. … There’s nowhere else like it, says Sir Nicholas. “Claridges and the Connaught both got rid of wonderful restaurants over the years but Wiltons has resisted every idiot whim to change or allow the quality to slip, which is very reassuring for people like me who have been coming for years.”

Another London restaurant with a Waugh association is Bellamy’s in Mayfair. According to Architectural Digest this Mayfair restautant is one of 6 chosen by the Queen when she eats out:

In 2004, three Annabel’s alumni established this French brasserie (which was named for the club in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour books). The Queen discovered Bellamy’s in 2006—and she has, since, returned for the caviar and the smoked-eel mousse.

The Independent has an article about the Open Syllabus Project that accumulates data on assigned texts from college syllabuses throughout the English-speaking world. It was this data base which produced the recent gaffe in a Time magazine article misidentifying Evelyn Waugh as a female novelist. According to the Independent:

The Open Syllabus team point to Time magazine’s mistake in adding Evelyn Waugh to its list of the “100 Most-Read Female Writers in College Classes” as perhaps the result of the author of Decline and Fall being “one of the losers in literature canon change, and that as a result very few people under 40 have read him or, accordingly, been corrected on his gender during college”.

Finally, a reference to Waugh opens an article by John Broening in the New English Review about John Jeremiah Sullivan, described as a “gifted disciple” of novelist David Foster Wallace:

Can you create a work of art with little or no empathy? That’s easy. The answer is yes. The novels of Evelyn Waugh come to mind, in which there are few likeable or even vaguely sympathetic characters, in which death is a farce, filial love is an illusion, and romances are transactional unions between two dim, inattentive, and narcissistic people…To turn the question around, is there such a thing as an excess of empathy, and can it be a hindrance to the creation of a work of art? The writings of the journalist and essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan beg the question.

Most of the essay (entitled “The Empathist”) is devoted to Sullivan’s writings about Wallace as well as musicians Axl Rose and Michael Jackson.  
 
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Brideshead Published in Croatian

Brideshead Revisited has been published in a Croatian translation. This is entitled Povratak u Brideshead and is issued by Mozaik Books. The book is translated by Petra Mrduljaš, and the editor is Zoran Maljković. According to the publisher, this is the fifth of Waugh’s books to be published in Croatian, following each volume of the Sword of Honour trilogy and The Loved One. The book is reviewed in the Zagreb newspaper Večernji List (5 May 2018) as reposted on PressReader.com. The review is entitled: “Roman o bolnim socijalnim razlikama, nepravdi, ali i neispunjenim ljubavnim čežnjama” [A novel about painful social differences, injustices, but also unfulfilled love affairs].

The reposted review (which is unsigned and confusingly combined with an interview relating to the training of opera singers) mentions that Waugh is of more than average interest to Croatian readers because of his WWII experience in Yugoslavia. It also mentions in particular “Waugh’s visit to Tito’s staff with Randolph Churchill at the end of the Second World War, leaving behind interesting testimonials …” They might also have mentioned that Waugh made substantial changes to the text of Brideshead while stationed in Yugoslavia. Indeed, Winston Churchill intervened to facilitate the transport of the galley proofs to Waugh at his remote outpost in Topusko in late 1944.

The Google translation of the article is in this instance of low quality but provides what appears to be an accurate summary of the plot and description of the characters. Here’s the somewhat ambitious explanation of what the book is about:

What does Waugh actually write about in “Return to Brideshead”? Well, about a British society that has seen numerous … changes between the First and Second World War. About the cracks that appear in imperial puritanism [sic]. About the position of the Catholic minority in Protestant England. Of course, the position of other minorities, including those of sexuality. About the final collapse of a semi-feudal social order before the onslaught of liberal capitalism. About democratization of art and aesthetics. About people who can not escape their own accident [“vlastite nesreće”], and then from their own identity. About the position of women in a society that at least at first glance is very patriarchal, but that patriarchality is … on fragile feet. About alcoholism and dizziness. About human fidelity and the beauty of friendship.

The translation of this passage by Google has been slightly edited.

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