November 23, 2012
What Stoppard copied from Waugh for “Anna Karenina”
This isn’t hugely important, but it’s fun to note where major writers get their ideas. From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine of Anna Karenina, which features an adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel by playwright Tom Stoppard:
Stoppard is often attacked for his notorious cleverness, but he tries to use his brainpower to make audience comprehension as simple as possible (but not simpler).
Russian novels, however, are notorious for their endless characters with endless names. For example, Anna’s husband is Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, while her lover is Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. In his narration, Tolstoy gets around this self-inflicted problem by calling the father of Anna’s son “Alexei Alexandrovich” and the father of her daughter “Vronsky.” To help Western audiences, Stoppard mostly skips the patronymics.
Besides cutting away until he ends up with an efficient rendition of the grand plot, Stoppard adds a brilliant new climax to the steeplechase scene that Tolstoy had overlooked, perhaps because it didn’t occur to him how confounding having two Alexeis might be to foreigners. In Stoppard’s variation, when Vronsky falls in a horse race for cavalry officers, Anna screams “Alexei!” Her husband comes running when she calls his name, only for her to ignore him in front of tout le Moscou in her anguish over her new Alexei.
Stoppard presumably lifted this device from the most shocking scene in Evelyn Waugh’s 1934 novel A Handful of Dust, in which the wife has a young son and a lover both named “John.” Informed only of the death of “John,” she exclaims “Oh, thank God” when she then learns that it was merely her little boy who was killed in an equestrian accident. (Here’s a recent interview with Stoppard to promote Anna Karenina where, unprompted, he cites A Handful of Dust as a “masterpiece.”)
In other words, Stoppard has been thinking about Waugh’s plot device recently. That shouldn’t be surprising: Back in the 1990s, Stoppard told a reviewer that his three favorite writers were Waugh, Vladimir Nabokov, and Thomas Babington Macaulay, so there’s nothing new here. (By the way, I like Waugh, Nabokov, and Macaulay, too, so it’s hardly surprising I like Stoppard.) Indeed, when I type “Stoppard Waugh” into Google, I find this:
From September 1962 until April 1963, [Stoppard] worked in London as a drama critic for Scene, a new arts magazine, writing reviews and interviews, both under his name and under the pseudonym William Boot which was taken from the protagonist in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop. Stoppard says he was drawn to this character because he was “a journalist who brought a kind of innocent incompetence and contempt to what he was doing…. I used it, and got quite fond of Boot as a name.” He liked it so much in fact, that his early tv and radio plays frequently feature characters with the name Boot.
In turn, I wonder if Waugh’s original scene in A Handful of Dust was a parody of the horseback accident scene in Anna Karenina? I can’t find any evidence online that Waugh ever read Tolstoy — in general, Waugh hated 19th Century novels for their long-windedness, but he mostly excoriated Dickens in print — but I can imagine Waugh muttering his way through Anna Karenina, “Alexei Alexandrovich? Alexei Kirillovich? Why can’t this loquacious Muscovite use proper English names, such as, say, John? Wait a minute, that gives me an idea …”
A few years ago, I bought myself for Christmas War and Peace and a new copy of Scoop to replace the one that I had reread so often it fell apart. After 100+ pages of War and Peace, I said to myself, “You know, the plot is kind of like Scoop — rich people socialize in the city and the country, and then off to war — but Waugh only needs about 1/3 as many words as Tolstoy to communicate.” So, I reread Scoop for a 10th time instead of War and Peace for the first time.
Waugh’s non-verbose style was influenced by 1920s silent films. I believe he was employed as a screenwriter at a big studio for awhile, but only the amateur 28-minute silent comedy The Scarlet Woman: An Ecclesiastical Melodrama, made by Waugh’s friends in 1925, ever made it to the screen.
By Steve Sailer on 11/23/2012 39 comments
|—||iSteve blog (via delicousaloysius)|
I can’t afford a silk shirt; the only liquors at my disposal have ‘Smirnoff’ on the label; and the last time someone vomited on me, the gravest sin I ever imagined doing to them was ‘first-degree murder.’ But it’s the thought that counts. Considering how deeply unglamorous Waugh’s own Oxford career was, I would like to propose a little celebration of our own earnest, varyingly successful attempts to live as members of the Flyte-Ryder brigade.
What: Do you have a bear-shaped eraser named Aloysius? Do you lie in quiet contemplation of your Forever 21 blazer collection? Have you ever swirled cheap rum thoughtfully around a secondhand wine glass? Have you become an old hand at the question, “Evelyn Waugh…. remind me what she wrote?”? If you’re not enough of an aristocrat to beat ‘em, you might as well… post about it in the “You Triedshead Revisited” tag! That means pictures, anecdotes, and whatever else you have to document your quasi-Waugh efforts.
Who: Anyone who would like to be a Harold Acton, but ends up most often an undergraduate Waugh. (i.-likely-e., only me.)
When: Now- infinity. There’s no party like an “I had a best friend once until I let him descend into tortured alcoholism and leave me all alone with with my Catholic guilt” party.
That tag’s looking pretty desolate: As the rooms at Merton Street. That’s why you should post in it.
Questions and nastily disbelieving anons might be addressed to me.
Love or what you will.
|—||‘My History,’ by Evelyn Waugh (aged 7.)|
|—||1951, Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh (via iloveworkdrugs)|
William Bruce Ellis Ranken (British, 1881-1941), Pipe Practice, 1918. Oil on canvas, 182.9 x 142.2 cm. Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection.
Sometimes I forget that Cordelia has a pig named St. Francis Xavier. Upon remembering, I am instantly happy.
One of my favourite moments in the mini-series, and a rare moment where, although the series stray from the book, I love the addition.
William Bruce Ellis Ranken: painter, traveler, and all-around dish. Wonderfully HD examples of his work might be found here.
I’ve seen many of his paintings sold on auction sites under the name “William Rankin” for some reason.
Werk it like Waugh.
On today’s installment of The Lissome And The Dead: Hugh Lygon.
Called “the lascivious Mr. Lygon” by Evelyn Waugh, Hugh is remembered as being an endearingly dim bulb who was never on time, who rarely responded to letters, and who “drifted around Oxford like a lost boy, a Peter Pan who refused to grow up.” After his father, threatened with charges of sodomy, was forced to leave Britain, Hugh began a not-so-slow descent into alcoholism, and died at age thirty-two from head injuries sustained while on a motoring tour.
Waugh was magnificently successful in destroying all correspondence between himself and Lygon, leaving the precise nature of their relationship as a topic of rather half-hearted debate. It is certain that Waugh and Lygon became close after meeting through the most flamboyant institution on campus (the Hypocrites’ Club.) A. L. Rowse, Nancy Mitford, and Waugh himself have all intimated, with varying degrees of coyness, that the two slept together. Most tellingly, of course, is the matter of Waugh’s intensely homoerotic novel, whose homoerotic focal point is unambiguously derived from Lygon. So while it is crude to boil a man’s life down to a game of “did they didn’t they,” I personally consider this debate to be exceptionally settled.
All week, I’ve been trying and failing to find more Lygonny sources, and have consequently decided that, if no letters from Hugh are recovered before I die, I’ll just have to convert and personally punch Evelyn Waugh on his ectoplasmic nose.
I like the second edition is better than the first one, mainly because of the additions made by EW to the scene where Charles meets Sebastian after spending an evening with Anthony Blanche, and to the scene with Julia on the ship. There are also a lot of minor differences which I also generally prefer in the second edition.
However, a major arguement for the first edition is that you can read it here for free. If you are unsure, it might be a good idea to start reading the digital copy and see how it goes. You can always switch to a “decent” copy after the prologue. :-)
In the event that Charles needs some musical accompaniment for sobbing into his moustache… here is a Brideshead Revisited mixtape.
1. You Made Me Love You- Harry James (C Company Lament)
2. The Lark Ascending- Vaughan Williams (The Peculiar Splendor of Meadowsweet)
3. Un Héros Très Discret- Alexandre Desplat (Matriculations)
4. Hummingbird- George Winston (The Most Conspicuous Man)
5. Did I Remember?- Billie Holiday (A Time of Economy and Instruction)
6. La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin- Claude Debussy (Bloomsbury Strikes Again)
7. Ain’t Misbehavin’- Fats Waller (Catalogue of Sins)
8. La Notte (Allegro)- Vivaldi (The Injury Grave)
9. Lullaby- George Winston (Very Near Heaven)
10. They Can’t Take That Away From Me- Billie Holiday (The Painted Parlour and I)
11. First Self-Portrait Series- Rachel’s (October Arrived and Aloysius Forgotten)
12. Fly- Ludovico Einaudi (The Loneliest Man in Oxford)
13. Gymnopédie I- Erik Satie (We Talk of Nothing But)
14. Theme- Jon Brion (A Very Beautiful Place)
15. Good-Bye- Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (Quomodo Sedet Sola Civitas)
Yasmin recorded herself speaking… and I’m being utterly original and doing it. Here I am, reading a section from a book .. so… yeah English accent for ya’ll… I sound so much more elequant reading than I ever do when I just spew out mind dribble…
Happy Birthday, Evelyn Waugh, born 28 October 1903, died 10 April 1966
Seven Evelyn Waugh Quotes
- One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.
- Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography.
- An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along.
- Don’t analyze yourself. Give the relevant facts and let your readers make their own judgements. Stick to your story. It is not the most important subject in history but it is one about which you are uniquely qualified to speak.
- One can write, think and pray exclusively of others; dreams are all egocentric.
- I put the words down and push them a bit.
- There are no poetic ideas; only poetic utterances.
Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead, England, into a family of publishers and writers. He was educated at Oxford, where he majored in modern history.
Waugh’s first book, A Life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was published in 1928. Soon afterwards his first novel, Decline and Fall, appeared and his career was sensationally launched. Evelyn Waugh wrote 15 novels and several acclaimed travel books, two additional biographies, and an autobiography, A Little Learning.
by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write