April 08, 2005

Waugh Blegging


Perhaps I richly deserve to be called an ignoramous, but this actually is completely new to me - Helena, by Evelyn Waugh. It appears to be a fictional history of the mother of the Emperor Constantine which tracks the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. Given his religious zeal, I imagine the Old Boy must have had a field day with this one.

Anybody out there have any thoughts about this book?

Posted by Robert at April 8, 2005 04:16 PM

Yes. Don't read it. Very boring.

Posted by: stephenesque at April 8, 2005 04:25 PM

yes. see above.
you think it's going to get better and really be terrific, but it doesn't and isn't. mr woo could not really write well abt religious things.

Posted by: mom at April 8, 2005 04:35 PM

Helena was actually Waugh's favourite novel...He liked it best of all his books. But, as with Brideshead, since it has a religious theme (espesially a Roman Catholic one), it is considered sub-par work from EW by the hoi polloi...

Posted by: Enoch Soames at April 8, 2005 05:19 PM

It is, I believe, Waugh's only work of genuine "historical fiction", and I found it fascinating. One of the most interesting characters in the book is Fausta (I believe that's the name; it's been years since I read the book). Her character truly makes the blood run cold (which makes her end very fitting).

The novel is obviously religious in theme, but not at all boring.

Posted by: D. Carter at April 8, 2005 06:01 PM

It is without doubt Waugh's worst novel. Religious opinion has got nothing to do with it. Waugh WOULD think it was his best novel, the sanctimonious old fool. Let's face it, when writing about things of the spirit Waugh adopted this high-handed, "grand" style of prose to which he was totally unsuited, and this is why great gobs of Brideshead are also embarrassingly soppy.

Posted by: stephenesque at April 11, 2005 01:26 PM

It's interesting that you say this, as I was discussing the issue with a friend over the weekend and she said: "A thing I've never liked about Mr. Woo's religious rantings is the same objection I have to Mr. Graham Greene's: they do have that little air as if THEY had been the first two at the Tomb."

Posted by: Robert the LB at April 11, 2005 01:40 PM

I know exactly what your freind means, altho' I don't mind Greene's religious stuff that much: "End of the Affair" is actually quite moving - and in his darker moments he admits to being a fallen man. Waugh on the otherhand, you'd never think he'd been a boorish, effeminate undergraduate with an interest in other men's private parts: "sensitive crimes in a punt with a chap named Norman", as Withnail's Uncle Monty put it. Not that I've got anything against such homo activites, you understand, but when he writes so bloody piously and poorly later on.... well, the holy water seems to stagnate a little.
Do yourself a favor, give Helena the elbow and re-read 'Decline and Fall' or Scoop' instead.

Posted by: stephenesque at April 11, 2005 05:30 PM
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