Thursday, April 17, 2008

not a nice man

Courtesy of JD, a link to Mark Brown's peculiar comments, in the Guardian, on a CD including a radio interview of Evelyn Waugh by a panel of three. Brown's take on the release: Although fascinating, the interview does not disabuse listeners of Waugh's reputation as a brilliant, yet slightly mad and combative reactionary. His reasons are, it seems: that Waugh approved of capital punishment, would have performed the task if required to do so, but would not have enjoyed it; that he did not like playing with his children when small and was glad they were at school; that he did not think there was such a thing as a man in the street.

Waugh is pushed on whether he interacts with real people and is asked: "Do you find it easy to get on with the man in the street?" "I've never met such a person." What about on buses or trains? "I've never travelled in a bus and I've never addressed a stranger on a train," he says, testily. The interviewer says surely Waugh cannot go about in a Trappist condition. "The prospect of just being introduced to somebody as just a person, a man as you might say in the street, is entirely repugnant."


By the end of the interview Waugh becomes exasperated. Asked about different nationalities, Waugh laments: "I clearly can't make myself understood. There is no such thing as a man in the street. There is no ordinary run of mankind, there are only individuals who are totally different. And whether a man is naked and black and stands on one foot in Sudan or is clothed in some kind of costume in a bus in England, they are still individuals of entirely different characters."

I can't quite see the madness in all this. The etiquette of the interview requires the victim to be pleasant in the face of inanity; Waugh violated it, but hardly without provocation.

1 comment:

Jenny Davidson said...

Yes--just stopping by belatedly to say that of course these observations seemed to me very sensible! I do think Waugh was a monster (re: description of banana-eating episode in Auberon Waugh's autobiography), but in this case he seems to have just been plagued by irritating interviewers...