Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited

Methode-times-prod-web-bin-895c0f04-3931-11e6-aa72-a53adb7df446Ian Sansom at Literary Review:

Unexpectedly, yet perhaps inevitably, Evelyn Waugh is becoming more likeable as the years go by. Fifty years dead now, the vile, rude, snobbish, cigar-chomping, ear trumpet-brandishing, banana-gobbling bigot is slowly becoming, in distant memory and from a comfortable distance, a bit of an old sweetheart. The more one reads about him, the more one likes him. Even the banana incident – shortly after the Second World War he ate three precious, strictly rationed bananas intended for his children in front of them, an act that his son Auberon famously found difficult to forgive and even more difficult to stop talking about – seems in retrospect as much a prank as an act of pure unpleasantness, more jolly jape than great evil. Weren’t all 20th-century bourgeois bohemian families equally brutish and strange? That’s certainly what all the books and biographies seem to suggest, isn’t it? And where’s the harm in a bit of a teasing – the children all get over it in the end, don’t they? Auberon’s son Alexander unearthed some years ago a letter from Auberon to Evelyn, never sent, which certainly suggests that even Auberon didn’t really begrudge his old man his eccentricities. The letter begins, ‘Dear Papa, Just a line to tell you what for some reason I was never able to show you in my lifetime, that I admire, revere and love you more than any other man in the world.’ Funny thing, that: as we get older it’s easier to forgive others, since we’re so much in need of forgiveness ourselves.

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