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Posts Tagged ‘Vile Bodies’

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.