Posts Tagged With: Evelyn Waugh

A Quick Catch Up

It has been just over a month since my last post and I am afraid to say that in that time I have let my Alexander reading go a bit. As is common with me, I have been rather distracted by other books and writing projects.

One book that has been very much on my mind, or rather, in my ears is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I have been listening to the audiobook version as read by Jeremy Irons.

Brideshead is one of my most favourite novels. You may know that Irons played the protagonist, Charles Ryder, in the superb 1981 ITV adaptation of the book. If you have not seen it, I can’t recommend the series highly enough. It is faithful to Waugh’s book and utterly sumptuous.

Despite all that, I would not have cause to mention it here except for one piece of dialogue, spoken by Ryder’s wife, Celia in Chapter Two of Book Three. There, Ryder – as the narrator – describes how his wife drew party guests ‘to the subscription list for the book of Ryder’s Latin America‘. He continues,

I heard her say: ‘No, darling, I’m not at all surprised, but you wouldn’t expect me to be, would you? You see Charles lives for one thing – Beauty. I think he got bored with finding it ready-made in England; he had to go and create it for himself. He wanted new worlds to conquer…’

‘He wanted new worlds to conquer…’

Depending on who you read, Alexander is said to have cried either because there were no new worlds to conquer or because when there was an infinity of worlds, he had not yet conquered one (for more on this, see the ‘Disputed’ section of Wikiquotes entry on Alexander here).


The BBC’s new Troy: Fall of A City series begins on 17th February. I will be writing about it on this blog. The series has aroused interest and controversy on social media due to its representation of certain characters; most notably, Achilles, who is played by a black actor.

What will I be looking for from the series? What with the fall of Troy being a myth, I would like to see a drama that speaks to our age as well as that of Troy: if I wanted The Iliad, I would read the poem. With that said, I would like to see the characters being faithful to Homer’s vision of them. The worst thing that could happen is that they are written as moderns. Period dramas where the characters are men and women of our age are an insult to the past.


The Fb Mary Renault Reading Group has changed its name to The Alexander the Great Reading Group. From March, the focus will move on to Renault’s Nature of Alexander. The change in name is wise for at some point or another we will move on from Renault. I am very disappointed, though, that we were not able to bring Funeral Games to a finish. The will, however, was simply not there.

I am most disappointed in myself. I enjoyed Renault’s previous Alexander books and I could have made a lot more effort to finish Funeral Games. There was always something else to read, though…

I’m determined not to forget Funeral Games, though; I will dig the book out and will make an effort to continue reading it in the coming weeks/months. I will post any thoughts I have here.

Categories: Books, Homer | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Waugh on Knossos

EvelynwaughIn 1929 Evelyn Waugh went on a Mediterranean cruise, which he subsequently wrote an account of in a book titled Labels (Duckworth 1930).

Part of this book was republished in When the Going was Good (Duckworth 1946) and it was while reading this today that I came across Waugh’s account of his visit to the Minoan royal palace at Knossos.

As will be seen, Waugh was not impressed by what he saw. The reason for his criticism of the palace is interesting. It’s almost as if some baleful memory has stuck to the walls of the palace and casts its long shadow on him as he walks around.

The Minoan period is not this blog’s usual area of interest, though Achilles does give the two a connection. That, and the fact that Evelyn Waugh is one of my favourite writers means I could not possibly ignore his foray into the ancient past.

On our way east we stopped for the day at Crete…

I accompanied a party of fellow passengers to the museum to admire the barbarities of Minoan culture.

One cannot well judge the merits of Minoan painting, since only a few square inches of the vast area exposed to our consideration are earlier than the last twenty years, and their painters have tempered their zeal for reconstruction with a predilection for covers of Vogue.

We chartered a Ford car and drove with a guide to Cnossos, where Sir Arthur Evans (our guide referred to him always as “Your English Lord Evans”) is rebuilding the palace. At present only a few rooms and galleries are complete, the rest being an open hillside scarred with excavations, but we were able to form some idea of the magnitude and intricacy of the operation from the plans which were posted up for our benefit on the chief platform.

I think that if our English Lord Evans ever finishes even a part of his vast undertaking, it will be a place of oppressive wickedness. I do not think that it can be only imagination and the recollection of a bloodthirsty mythology which makes something fearful and malignant of the cramped galleries and stunted alleys, these colonnades of inverted, conical pillars, these rooms that are mere blind passages at the end of sunless staircases; this squat little throne, set on a landing where the paths of the palace intersect; it is not the seat of a lawgiver nor a divan for the recreation of a soldier; here an ageing despot might crouch and have borne to him, along the walls of a whispering gallery, barely audible intimations of his own murder

(A Pleasure Cruise in 1929 from When the Going was Good pp.55-56)

The picture of Evelyn Waugh and partly restored Knossos are from Wikipedia

Categories: Of The Moment | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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