Why Was Evelyn Waugh “Apalled” By His Own Work?


This is a reblog of one of Robert Bruce’s posts from his fantastic website 101Books.net which is the best book site on the web in my opinion.

Why Was Evelyn Waugh “Apalled” By His Own Work?
BRIDESHEAD (1)The critics love Brideshead Revisited. As you know, it’s on the Time list–that’s why I’m reading it–but it’s also #80 on the Modern Library list of English-language novels in the 20th Century. Newsweek listed the novel as one of its 100 best books of world literature, and the BBC lists it at #45 on its literature list.

By all accounts, this is literature at its finest.

However, the novel’s author, Evelyn Waugh, wasn’t a fan of his own work. In 1950, he wrote to Graham Greene saying “I re-read Brideshead Revisited and was appalled.”

Waugh doesn’t even hold back criticizing the novel in the Brideshead Revisited preface:

“It was a bleak period of present privation and threatening disaster – the period of soya beans and Basic English — and in consequence the book is infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful.”

Well, doesn’t that really just get you in the mood to read? The author himself trashing the novel in its very own preface.

How should one interpret this?

I think it’s pretty simple. We’re always our own worst critics. That’s just human nature.

So when an author says something he wrote sucks, I believe you have to take that with a grain of salt. Too many authors expect perfection from themselves and feel like failures when they don’t achieve that impossible standard.

Evelyn Waugh might not have been a fan of Brideshead Revisited, but most everyone else who read it is.

And that’s good enough for me.

Here is the original post on 101books.net


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