The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War
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One climbed to the very top of the social ladder, the other chose to live among tramps. One was a celebrity at twenty-three, the other virtually unknown until his dying days. One was right-wing and religious, the other a socialist and an atheist. Yet, as this ingenious and important new book reveals, at the heart of their lives and writing, Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell were essentially the same man.
Orwell is best known for Animal Farm and 1984, Waugh for Brideshead Revisited and comic novels like Scoop and Vile Bodies. However different they may seem, these two towering figures of twentieth-century literature are linked for the first time in this engaging and unconventional biography, which goes beyond the story of their amazing lives to reach the core of their beliefs–a shared vision that was startlingly prescient about our own troubled times.
Both Waugh and Orwell were born in 1903, into the same comfortable stratum of England’s class-obsessed society. But at first glance they seem to have lived opposite lives. Waugh married into the high aristocracy, writing hilarious novels that captured the amoral time between the wars. He converted to Catholicism after his wife’s infidelity and their divorce. Orwell married a moneyless student of Tolkien’s who followed him to Barcelona, where he fought in the Spanish Civil War. She saved his life there–twice–but her own fate was tragic.
Waugh and Orwell would meet only once, as the latter lay dying of tuberculosis, yet as The Same Man brilliantly shows, in their life and work both writers rebelled against a modern world run by a privileged, sometimes brutal, few. Orwell and Waugh were almost alone among their peers in seeing what the future–our time–would bring, and they dedicated their lives to warning us against what was coming: a world of material wealth but few values, an existence without tradition or community or common purpose, where lives are measured in dollars, not sense. They explained why, despite prosperity, so many people feel that our society is headed in the wrong direction. David Lebedoff believes that we need both Orwell and Waugh now more than ever.
Unique in its insights and filled with vivid scenes of these two fascinating men and their tumultuous times, The Same Man is an amazing story and an original work of literary biography.
From the Hardcover edition.
classical tag, leaving them to the sea…. Then I climbed the sharp hill that led to all the years ahead. WHILE WAUGH AND HIS OXFORD friends were drunkenly singing “The Road to Mandalay,” Eric Blair had been hard at work patrolling it. This city in upper Burma was his first assignment, the place where he would be trained for his job as an imperial policeman. He was an officer of the Indian Imperial Police, and, of course, Burma is not in India. The two countries are not even adjacent except at
fantasy for himself, that Jorkins should be an American, and throughout the evening he played a delicate, one-sided parlour-game with him, explaining any peculiarly English terms that occurred in the conversation, translating pounds into dollars, and courteously deferring to him with such phrases as “Of course, by your standards…” “All this must seem very parochial to Mr. Jorkins” “In the vast spaces to which you are accustomed…” so that my guest was left with the vague sense that there was a
fought by the Russians, second only to America as England’s strongest ally. The desire to avoid offending an ally at the height of a war is understandable. But one of the things that England was fighting for was freedom of speech. The refusal to publish in England a fable critical of Stalin was contemptible. And pointless as well: When the book did come out in England, it made no difference in Britain’s relations with Russia. There is a phrase: adding insult to injury. A very fine example would
Both men, then, came by different routes to the view that the Modern Age would be faithless, and consequently something essential would be missing from our lives, displaced but not replaced by hedonism. There was a backlash to the loss of faith. Vast numbers of Americans in recent years reported that their votes were swayed more by moral values than by any other concern. This is often mistakenly seen as suggesting that one party is more moral than another. But that was never true. It means
Special Collections ON THE ARAGON FRONT: George Orwell Archive, UCL Library Services, Special Collections LAURA HERBERT: Photo by J. A. Hampton / Topical Press Agency / Hulton Archive / Getty Images TOP OF THE HILL: Private Collection THE STORES: George Orwell Archive, UCL Library Services, Special Collections WAUGH IN UNIFORM: Howard Coster, National Portrait Gallery, London ORWELL AND T. S. ELIOT: © BBC Photo Library WAUGH AND RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Private Collection