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Posts Tagged ‘Evelyn Waugh’

Adventures in Bookland: Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

The best writer of English prose of the 20th century is getting into his stride here, in his second novel – which makes it better written than 99.9% of other books. Waugh pretty well invented the ‘bright young things’, the post-War gadabouts who went about pointedly not talking about the war, rather in the way I remember, growing up myself in the ’60s and ’70s, no one then wanted to talk about the Second World War. In fact, any attempt at reminiscence was met with groans and requests to talk about something else. Very different from nowadays, when we are fascinated by the Second World War above everything else in history. (Question: what annoys modern historians most? Answer: the fact, apparent by interest as measured by every metric available, that nothing else happened in history apart from World War II and the Roman Empire.)

Waugh’s novels is as bright, brittle and facile (in its secondary meaning of apparent effortlenssness) as the people he satirizes. With Vile Bodies, the satire remains relatively good humoured; there is nothing so merciless as his depiction of the moral vacuum of the English upper classes as portrayed in A Handful of Dust. Not absolutely top-drawer Waugh, but still better than virtually anyone else.

Adventures in Bookland: Scott-King’s Modern Europe by Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018


Light, bright, witty Waugh – which of course means it’s still better than 99.9% of other books published. Actually, calling it a book is stretching the point – it’s a novella, written shortly after the end of World War II as Europe was settling into the long stasis of Cold War and Iron Curtain, with Waugh parellelling his pre-war jibes at post-colonial African states with a post-war whittling of a European dictator state, fictitious but bearing close resemblances to Franco’s Spain. An English academic is invited to a conference on his obscure speciality, an equally obscure poet, and finds himself part of the general ineptness of a police state. It’s incompetently evil – Waugh was evidently a believer in the maxim that most evil men are banal bureaucrats rather than Machiavellian geniuses, and here he enjoys himself hugely at their expense. A joy to read, as always with Waugh.