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When the Going Was Good (16) (Penguin Classics Waugh 16) Hardcover – 29 Sep 2011
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About the Author
Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903. His first novel, Decline and Fall, was published in 1928 and it was soon followed by: Vile Bodies (1930), Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). He travelled extensively, served in the Royal Marines and the Royal Horse Guards and continued to write, winning many prestigious literary awards. Brideshead Revisited was first published in 1945. Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.
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"When.." was first published in 1946, and was a condensation of "all that I wish to preserve of the travel books I wrote between... 1929 and 1935". It is one of his least-known but best works, unaccountably neglected by a public that knows him, if it knows him at all, for "Brideshead Revisited" (a book almost impossible to understand unless you are a Roman Catholic and in my opinion the least worthy, yet best known, of all his works). It deals with the years (1928-37) when he travelled the world as a freelance correspondent, reporting from some of its least-known areas (he was present in Abyssinia when the Italians invaded in 1935) in a colourful, picturesque style that few others could manage. Each of the books distilled into "When..." dealt with a different portion of the globe - "Labels" (1930 - the Mediterranean), "Remote People" (1931 - Ethiopia and British East Africa), "Ninety-two Days" (1934 - British Guiana and Brazil) and "Waugh in Abyssinia" (1936). They deal with off-beat, hidden things, the sort of material that most journos wouldn't bother with, but which reveal the reality of life as it was experienced in those days and places. And, as always with Waugh's work, it points up the details of life for Europeans who, as he never failed to point out, carried their prejudices and preconceptions with them wherever they went -
"... there was a ball, but that.. was ill-attended, as it... coincided with a reception at the Residency, and no-one was anxious to advertise the fact that he had not been invited there".
Colourful characters and incidents abound -
"A Negro known... as 'the Blood of Corruption' was arrested... he was the leader of a (gang) called 'the Beasts of Berlin'... none of them had the remotest idea what Berlin was ; they just liked the name. But they were ...serious criminals for all that".
If you are fascinated by the world of the inter-war period and have a taste for colourful stories and egregious characters, then this is for you. If your first concern is political correctness, then forget it.